Proliferating, activated, hepatic stellate cells have a high level of collagen type I expression. Therefore, stellate cell proliferation is a critical step in hepatic fibrosis. Here we show that proliferation of activated primary rat stellate cells was blocked by elevation of cAMP with 8 Br-cAMP or isomethylbutyl xanthine, a phosphodiesterase inhibitor, and by stimulation of Ca2+ fluxes with the Ca2+ ionophore A-23187. Because phosphorylation of CREB on Ser133 is an important mediator of cAMP-protein kinase (PKA) and Ca2+-calmodulin kinase II (CAMK-II) activation, we tested whether CREB-PSer133 was essential for stellate cell quiescence. Nuclear extracts from quiescent, but not from activated, stellate cells contained CREB-PSer133. Moreover, the phosphorylation of CREB on Ser133 was stimulated in activated cells by inducing the activity of PKA or CAMK-II. In addition, coexpression of CREB and either a constitutively active PKA or a constitutively active CAMK-II inhibited the proliferation of activated stellate cells. In contrast, expression of CREB alone, PKA or CAMK-II alone, CREB-Ala 133 (which lacks the Ser133 phosphoacceptor) with PKA or CAMK-II, or CREB with inactive PKA or CAMK-II mutants did not affect stellate cell proliferation, suggesting that CREB-PSer133 is necessary for blocking the stellate cell cycle. Conversely, expression of a trans-dominant negative CREB-Ala 133 mutant (which competes with CREB/CREB-PSer133 for cognate DNA binding sites and presumably for protein interactions) induced a greater than fivefold entry into S-phase of quiescent stellate cells, compared with control cells expressing either beta-galactosidase or wt CREB, indicating that CREB-PSer133 may be indispensable for the quiescent stellate cell phenotype. This study suggests that PKA and CAMK-II play an essential role on stellate cell activation through the induction of CREB phosphorylation on Ser133, and provides potential approaches for the treatment of hepatic fibrogenesis in patients with chronic liver diseases.
K Houglum, K S Lee, M Chojkier