Monocyte homing to the liver and adhesion to the liver sinusoidal endothelial cells (LSEC) are key elements in nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) pathogenesis. We reported previously that vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 (VCAM-1) mediates monocyte adhesion to LSEC. However, the pathogenic role of VCAM-1 in NASH is unclear. Herein, we report that VCAM-1 was a top upregulated adhesion molecule in the NASH mouse liver transcriptome. Open chromatin landscape profiling combined with genome-wide transcriptome analysis showed robust transcriptional upregulation of LSEC-VCAM-1 in murine NASH. Moreover, LSEC-VCAM-1 expression was significantly increased in human NASH. LSEC-VCAM-1 expression was upregulated by palmitate treatment in vitro, and reduced with inhibition of the mitogen-activated protein 3 kinase, mixed lineage kinase 3 (MLK3). Likewise, LSEC-VCAM-1 expression was reduced in the Mlk3-/- mice with diet-induced NASH. Furthermore, VCAM-1 neutralizing antibody or pharmacological inhibition attenuated diet-induced NASH in mice, mainly via reducing the proinflammatory monocyte hepatic population as examined by mass cytometry by time of flight (CyTOF). Moreover, endothelium-specific Vcam1 knockout mice were also protected against NASH. In summary, lipotoxic stress enhances the expression of LSEC-VCAM-1, in part, through MLK3 signaling. Inhibition of VCAM-1 was salutary in murine NASH, and might serve as a potential therapeutic strategy for human NASH.
Kunimaro Furuta, Qianqian Guo, Kevin D. Pavelko, Jeong-Heon Lee, Keith D. Robertson, Yasuhiko Nakao, Jan Melek, Vijay H. Shah, Petra Hirsova, Samar H. Ibrahim