Hepatic fibrosis and cirrhosis are common findings in humans with hemochromatosis. In this study we investigated the molecular pathways of iron-induced hepatic fibrosis and evaluated the anti-fibrogenic effect of vitamin E. Male gerbils were treated with iron-dextran and fed a standard diet or a alpha-tocopherol enriched diet (250 mg/Kg diet). In gerbils on the standard diet at 6 wk after dosing with iron, in situ hybridization analysis documented a dramatic increase of signal for collagen mRNA around iron foci onto liver fat storing cells (FSC), as identified by immunocytochemistry with desmin antibody. After 4 mo, micronodular cirrhosis developed in these animals, with nonparenchymal cells surrounding hepatocyte nodules and expressing high level of TGF beta mRNA. In this group, in vivo labeling with [3H]-thymidine showed a marked proliferation of nonparenchymal cells, including FSC. In iron-dosed gerbils on the vitamin E-enriched diet for 4 mo, in spite of a severe liver iron burden, a normal lobular architecture was found, with a dramatic decrease of collagen mRNA accumulation and collagen deposition. At the molecular level, a total suppression of nonparenchymal cell proliferation was appreciable, although expression of collagen and TGF beta mRNAs was still present into microscopic iron-filled nonparenchymal cell aggregates scattered throughout the hepatic lobule. In conclusion, our study shows that anti-oxidant treatment during experimental hepatic fibrosis arrests fibrogenesis and completely prevents iron induced hepatic cirrhosis mainly through inhibition of nonparenchymal cell proliferation induced by iron.
A Pietrangelo, R Gualdi, G Casalgrandi, G Montosi, E Ventura