Biology Open (Feb 2019)

The Forkhead box F1 transcription factor inhibits collagen deposition and accumulation of myofibroblasts during liver fibrosis

  • Hannah M. Flood,
  • Craig Bolte,
  • Nupur Dasgupta,
  • Akanksha Sharma,
  • Yufang Zhang,
  • Chandrashekhar R. Gandhi,
  • Tanya V. Kalin,
  • Vladimir V. Kalinichenko

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 8, no. 2


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Hepatic fibrosis is the common end stage to a variety of chronic liver injuries and is characterized by an excessive deposition of extracellular matrix (ECM), which disrupts the liver architecture and impairs liver function. The fibrous lesions are produced by myofibroblasts, which differentiate from hepatic stellate cells (HSC). The myofibroblast’s transcriptional networks remain poorly characterized. Previous studies have shown that the Forkhead box F1 (FOXF1) transcription factor is expressed in HSCs and stimulates their activation during acute liver injury; however, the role of FOXF1 in the progression of hepatic fibrosis is unknown. In the present study, we generated αSMACreER;Foxf1fl/fl mice to conditionally inactivate Foxf1 in myofibroblasts during carbon tetrachloride-mediated liver fibrosis. Foxf1 deletion increased collagen depositions and disrupted liver architecture. Timp2 expression was significantly increased in Foxf1-deficient mice while MMP9 activity was reduced. RNA sequencing of purified liver myofibroblasts demonstrated that FOXF1 inhibits expression of pro-fibrotic genes, Col1α2, Col5α2, and Mmp2 in fibrotic livers and binds to active repressors located in promotors and introns of these genes. Overexpression of FOXF1 inhibits Col1a2, Col5a2, and MMP2 in primary murine HSCs in vitro. Altogether, FOXF1 prevents aberrant ECM depositions during hepatic fibrosis by repressing pro-fibrotic gene transcription in myofibroblasts and HSCs.