Hepatocyte-Derived Lipotoxic Extracellular Vesicle Sphingosine 1-Phosphate Induces Macrophage Chemotaxis

Chieh Yu Liao, Myeong Jun Song, Yandong Gao, Amy S. Mauer, Alexander Revzin, Harmeet Malhi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background: The pathophysiology of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis involves hepatocyte lipotoxicity due to excess saturated free fatty acids and concomitant proinflammatory macrophage effector responses. These include the infiltration of macrophages into hepatic cords in response to incompletely understood stimuli. Stressed hepatocytes release an increased number of extracellular vesicles (EVs), which are known to participate in intercellular signaling and coordination of the behavior of immune cell populations via their cargo. We hypothesized that hepatocyte-derived lipotoxic EVs that are enriched in sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) are effectors of macrophage infiltration in the hepatic microenvironment. Methods: Lipotoxic EVs were isolated from palmitate treated immortalized mouse hepatocytes and characterized by nanoparticle tracking analysis. Lipotoxic EV sphingolipids were quantified using tandem mass spectrometry. Wildtype and S1P1 receptor knockout bone marrow-derived macrophages were exposed to lipotoxic EV gradients in a microfluidic gradient generator. Macrophage migration toward EV gradients was captured by time-lapse microscopy and analyzed to determine directional migration. Fluorescence-activated cell sorting along with quantitative PCR and immunohistochemistry were utilized to characterize the cell surface expression of S1P1 receptor on intrahepatic leukocytes and hepatic expression of S1P1 receptor, respectively. Results: Palmitate treatment induced the release of EVs. These EVs were enriched in S1P. Palmitate-induced S1P enriched EVs were chemoattractive to macrophages. EV S1P enrichment depended on the activity of sphingosine kinases 1 and 2, such that, pharmacological inhibition of sphingosine kinases 1 and 2 resulted in a significant reduction in EV S1P cargo without affecting the number of EVs released. When exposed to EVs derived from cells treated with palmitate in the presence of a pharmacologic inhibitor of sphingosine kinases 1 and 2, macrophages displayed diminished chemotactic behavior. To determine receptor-ligand specificity, we tested the migration responses of macrophages genetically deleted in the S1P1 receptor toward lipotoxic EVs. S1P1 receptor knockout macrophages displayed a marked reduction in their chemotactic responses toward lipotoxic palmitate-induced EVs. Conclusions:Palmitate-induced lipotoxic EVs are enriched in S1P through sphingosine kinases 1 and 2. S1P-enriched EVs activate persistent and directional macrophage chemotaxis mediated by the S1P1 receptor, a potential signaling axis for macrophage infiltration during hepatic lipotoxicity, and a potential therapeutic target for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2980
JournalFrontiers in immunology
StatePublished - Dec 19 2018


  • ceramide
  • non-alcoholic steatohepatitis
  • palmitic acid
  • sphingolipid signaling
  • sphingosine kinase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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