Hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) are resident non-parenchymal liver pericytes whose plasticity enables them to regulate a remarkable range of physiologic and pathologic responses. To support their functions in health and disease, HSCs engage pathways regulating carbohydrate, mitochondrial, lipid, and retinoid homeostasis. In chronic liver injury, HSCs drive hepatic fibrosis and are implicated in inflammation and cancer. To do so, the cells activate, or transdifferentiate, from a quiescent state into proliferative, motile myofibroblasts that secrete extracellular matrix, which demands rapid adaptation to meet a heightened energy need. Adaptations include reprogramming of central carbon metabolism, enhanced mitochondrial number and activity, endoplasmic reticulum stress, and liberation of free fatty acids through autophagy-dependent hydrolysis of retinyl esters that are stored in cytoplasmic droplets. As an archetype for pericytes in other tissues, recognition of the HSC's metabolic drivers and vulnerabilities offer the potential to target these pathways therapeutically to enhance parenchymal growth and modulate repair.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)242-257
Number of pages16
JournalCell Metabolism
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2 Feb 2021


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