iNOS gene ablation prevents liver fibrosis in leptin-deficient ob/ob mice
The role of extracellular matrix (ECM) remodeling in fibrosis progression in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is complex and dynamic, involving the synthesis and degradation of different ECM components, including tenascin C (TNC). The aim was to analyze the influence of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) deletion on inflammation and ECM remodeling in the liver of ob/ob mice, since a functional relationship between leptin and iNOS has been described. The expression of molecules involved in inflammation and ECM remodeling was analyzed in the liver of double knockout (DBKO) mice simultaneously lacking the ob and the iNOS genes. Moreover, the effect of leptin was studied in the livers of ob/ob mice and compared to wild-type rodents. Liver inflammation and fibrosis were increased in leptin-deficient mice. As expected, leptin treatment reverted the obesity phenotype. iNOS deletion in ob/ob mice improved insulin sensitivity, inflammation, and fibrogenesis, as evidenced by lower macrophage infiltration and collagen deposition as well as downregulation of the proinflammatory and profibrogenic genes including Tnc. Circulating TNC levels were also decreased. Furthermore, leptin upregulated TNC expression and release via NO-dependent mechanisms in AML12 hepatic cells. iNOS deficiency in ob/ob mice improved liver inflammation and ECM remodeling-related genes, decreasing fibrosis, and metabolic dysfunction. The activation of iNOS by leptin is necessary for the synthesis and secretion of TNC in hepatocytes, suggesting an important role of this alarmin in the development of NAFLD.