Hepatic lipocytes play a central role in the pathogenesis of liver fibrosis, both via production of extracellular matrix proteins and through secretion of matrix metalloproteinases. In this study, we have characterized lipocyte expression and release of tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases-1 (TIMP-1), an important inhibitor of metalloproteinase activity, whose role in liver has not previously been examined. TIMP-1 was immunolocalized to human lipocytes, and secretion of TIMP-1 was confirmed by ELISA of culture media; (mean +/- SD) 159 +/- 79 ng of TIMP-1/10(6) cells per 24 h. Evidence for functional inhibitory activity of released TIMP-1 was obtained by (a) reverse zymography that demonstrated a single inhibitor band, M(r) 28 kD, that co-migrated with a TIMP-1-positive control sample; and (b) unmasking of inhibited gelatinase activity in lipocyte medium by separating it from TIMP-1 using gelatin sepharose chromatography; gelatinase activity in chromatographed medium increased more than 20-fold, compared with unfractionated medium, and could be reinhibited by adding back fractions that contained inhibitor. By Northern analysis, freshly isolated human lipocytes exhibited low levels of mRNA expression for TIMP-1, but this increased markedly relative to beta-actin expression with lipocyte activation during cell culture. We conclude that human hepatic lipocytes synthesize TIMP-1, a potent metalloproteinase inhibitor, and that TIMP-1 expression increases with lipocyte activation. These data indicate that hepatic lipocytes can regulate matrix degradation in the liver, and suggest that expression of TIMP-1 by activated lipocytes may contribute to the progression of liver fibrosis.
J P Iredale, G Murphy, R M Hembry, S L Friedman, M J Arthur