The cirrhotic liver is depleted of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a key modulator of NF-kappa B and TGF beta pathways in hepatic stellate cells
Liver cirrhosis results from chronic hepatic damage and is characterized by derangement of the organ architecture with increased liver fibrogenesis and defective hepatocellular function. It frequently evolves into progressive hepatic insufficiency associated with high mortality unless liver transplantation is performed. We have hypothesized that the deficiency of critical nutrients such as essential omega-3 fatty acids might play a role in the progression of liver cirrhosis. Here we evaluated by LC-MS/MS the liver content of omega-3 docosahexaenoic fatty acid (DHA) in cirrhotic patients and investigated the effect of DHA in a murine model of liver injury and in the response of hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) (the main producers of collagen in the liver) to pro-fibrogenic stimuli. We found that cirrhotic livers exhibit a marked depletion of DHA and that this alteration correlates with the progression of the disease. Administration of DHA exerts potent anti-fibrogenic effects in an acute model of liver damage. Studies with HSCs show that DHA inhibits fibrogenesis more intensely than other omega-3 fatty acids. Data from expression arrays revealed that DHA blocks TGF beta and NF-kappa B pathways. Mechanistically, DHA decreases late, but not early, SMAD3 nuclear accumulation and inhibits p65/RelA-S536 phosphorylation, which is required for HSC survival. Notably, DHA increases ADRP expression, leading to the formation of typical quiescence-associated perinuclear lipid droplets. In conclusion, a marked depletion of DHA is present in the liver of patients with advanced cirrhosis. DHA displays anti-fibrogenic activities on HSCs targeting NF-kappa B and TGF beta pathways and inducing ADPR expression and quiescence in these cells.