411 - 417
In liver cirrhosis, abnormal liver architecture impairs efficient transduction of hepatocytes with large viral vectors such as adenoviruses. Here we evaluated the ability of adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors, small viral vectors, to transduce normal and cirrhotic rat livers. Using AAV serotype-1 (AAV1) encoding luciferase (AAV1Luc) we analyzed luciferase expression with a CCD camera. AAV1Luc was injected through the hepatic artery (intra-arterial (IA)), the portal vein (intra-portal (IP)), directly into the liver (intra-hepatic (IH)) or infused into the biliary tree (intra-biliar). We found that AAV1Luc allows long-term and constant luciferase expression in rat livers. Interestingly, IP administration leads to higher expression levels in healthy than in cirrhotic livers, whereas the opposite occurs when using IA injection. IH administration leads to similar transgene expression in cirrhotic and healthy rats, whereas intra-biliar infusion is the least effective route. After 70% partial hepatectomy, luciferase expression decreased in the regenerating liver, suggesting lack of efficient integration of AAV1 DNA into the host genome. AAV1Luc transduced mainly the liver but also the testes and spleen. Within the liver, transgene expression was found mainly in hepatocytes. Using a liver-specific promoter, transgene expression was detected in hepatocytes but not in other organs. Our results indicate that AAVs are convenient vectors for the treatment of liver cirrhosis.
912 - 921
We investigated whether gene transfer of insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) to the hepatic tissue was able to improve liver histology and function in established liver cirrhosis. Rats with liver cirrhosis induced by carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) given orally for 8 weeks were injected through the hepatic artery with saline or with Simian virus 40 vectors encoding IGF-I (SVIGF-I), or luciferase (SVLuc). Animals were sacrificed 8 weeks after vector injection. In cirrhotic rats we observed that, whereas IGF-I was synthesized by hepatocytes, IGF-I receptor was predominantly expressed by nonparenchymal cells, mainly in fibrous septa surrounding hepatic nodules. Rats treated with SVIGF-I showed increased hepatic levels of IGF-I, improved liver function tests, and reduced fibrosis in association with diminished ¿-smooth muscle actin expression, up-regulation of matrix metalloproteases (MMPs) and decreased expression of the tissue inhibitors of MMPs TIM-1 and TIM-2. SVIGF-I therapy induced down-regulation of the profibrogenic molecules transforming growth factor beta (TGFß), amphiregulin, platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), connective tissue growth factor (CTGF), and vascular endothelium growth factor (VEGF) and induction of the antifibrogenic and cytoprotective hepatocyte growth factor (HGF). Furthermore, SVIGF-I-treated animals showed decreased expression of Wilms tumor-1 (WT-1; a nuclear factor involved in hepatocyte dedifferentiation) and up-regulation of hepatocyte nuclear factor 4 alpha (HNF4¿) (which stimulates hepatocellular differentiation). The therapeutic potential of SVIGF-I was also tested in rats with thioacetamide-induced liver cirrhosis. Also in this model, SVIGF-I improved liver function and reduced liver fibrosis in association with up-regulation of HGF and MMPs and down-regulation of tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase 1 (TIMP-1). Conclusion: IGF-I gene transfer to cirrhotic livers induces MMPs and hepatoprotective factors leading to reversion of fibrosis and improvement of liver function. IGF-I gene therapy may be a useful alternative therapy for patients with advanced cirrhosis without timely access to liver transplantation.