Combined Therapy with a CCR2/CCR5 Antagonist and FGF21 Analogue Synergizes in Ameliorating Steatohepatitis and Fibrosis

Tobias Puengel, Sander Lefere, Jana Hundertmark, Marlene Kohlhepp, Christian Penners, Frederique Van de Velde, Bruno Lapauw, Anne Hoorens, Lindsey Devisscher, Anja Geerts, Stephanie Boehm, Qihong Zhao, John Krupinski, Edgar D. Charles, Bradley Zinker, Frank Tacke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


(1) Background: With new potential drug targets emerging, combination therapies appear attractive to treat non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and fibrosis. Chemokine receptor CCR2/5 antagonists can improve fibrosis by reducing monocyte infiltration and altering hepatic macrophage subsets. Fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) may improve NASH by modulating lipid and glucose metabolism. We compared effects of single drug to combination treatment as therapeutic strategies against NASH. (2) Methods: We analyzed serum samples and liver biopsies from 85 nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) patients. A CCR2/5 inhibitor (BMS-687681-02-020) and a pegylated FGF21 agonist (BMS-986171) were tested in male C57BL/6J mice subjected to dietary models of NASH and fibrosis (choline-deficient, L-amino acid-defined, high-fat diet (CDAHFD) up to 12 weeks; short-(2w) or long-term (6w) treatment). (3) Results: In NAFLD patients, chemokine CCL2 and FGF21 serum levels correlated with inflammatory serum markers, only CCL2 was significantly associated with advanced liver fibrosis. In rodent NASH, CCR2/5 inhibition significantly reduced circulating Ly6C+ monocytes and hepatic monocyte-derived macrophages, alongside reduced hepatic inflammation and fibrosis. FGF21 agonism decreased body weight, liver triglycerides and histological NASH activity. Combination treatment reflected aspects of both compounds upon short-and long-term application, thereby amplifying beneficial effects on all aspects of steatohepatitis and fibrosis. (4) Conclusions: CCR2/5 inhibition blocks hepatic infiltration of inflammatory monocytes, FGF21 agonism improves obesity-related metabolic disorders. Combined therapy ameliorates steatohepatitis and fibrosis more potently than single drug treatment in rodent NASH, corroborating the therapeutic potential of combining these two approaches in NASH patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6696
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • chemokines
  • fibroblast growth factor (FGF)
  • fibrosis
  • inflammation
  • macrophages
  • metabolism
  • monocytes
  • nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
  • nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)
  • treatment strategies


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