L59 TGF-β LAP degradation products serve as a promising blood biomarker for liver fibrogenesis in mice

Mitsuko Hara, Ikuyo Inoue, Yuta Yamazaki, Akiko Kirita, Tomokazu Matsuura, Scott L. Friedman, Daniel B. Rifkin, Soichi Kojima

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10 Scopus citations


Background: Hepatic fibrosis, which is the excessive accumulation of extracellular matrices (ECMs) produced mainly from activated hepatic stellate cells (HSCs), develops to cirrhosis over several decades. There are no validated biomarkers that can non-invasively monitor excessive production of ECM (i.e., fibrogenesis). Transforming growth factor (TGF)-β, a key driver of fibrogenesis, is produced as an inactive latent complex, in which active TGF-β is enveloped by its pro-peptide, the latency-associated protein (LAP). Thus, active TGF-β must be released from the complex for binding to its receptor and inducing ECM synthesis. We recently reported that during the pathogenesis of liver fibrosis, plasma kallikrein (PLK) activates TGF-β by cleavage between R58 and L59 residues within LAP and that one of its by-products, the N-terminal side LAP degradation products ending at residue R58 (R58 LAP-DPs), can be detected mainly around activated HSCs by specific antibodies against R58 cleavage edges and functions as a footprint of PLK-dependent TGF-β activation. Here, we describe a sandwich enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) that detects the other by-products, the C-terminal side LAP-DPs starting from residue L59 (L59 LAP-DPs). We demonstrated that the L59 LAP-DPs are a potentially novel blood biomarker reflecting hepatic fibrogenesis. Results: We established a specific sandwich ELISA to quantify L59 LAP-DPs as low as 2 pM and measured L59 LAP-DP levels in the culture media of a human activated HSC line, TWNT-4 cells. L59 LAP-DPs could be detected in their media, and after treatment of TWNT-4 cells with a TGF-β receptor kinase inhibitor, SB431542, a simultaneous reduction was observed in both L59 LAP-DP levels in the culture media and the mRNA expression levels of collagen type (I) a1. In carbon tetrachloride- and bile duct ligation-induced liver fibrosis models in mice, plasma L59 LAP-DP levels increased prior to increase of hepatic hydroxyproline (HDP) contents and well correlated with a-smooth muscle actin (aSMA) expression in liver tissues. At this time, aSMA-positive cells as well as R58 LAP-DPs were seen in their liver tissues. Conclusions: L59 LAP-DPs reflect PLK-dependent TGF-β activation and the increase in aSMA-positive activated HSCs in liver injury, thereby serving as a novel blood biomarker for liver fibrogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17
JournalFibrogenesis and Tissue Repair
Issue number1
StatePublished - 15 Sep 2015


  • Biomarker
  • Fibrogenesis
  • Hepatic stellate cells
  • Liver fibrosis
  • Plasma kallikrein (PLK)
  • TGF-β activation


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