Monocyte homing to the liver and adhesion to the liver sinusoidal endothelial cells (LSECs) are key elements in nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) pathogenesis. We reported previously that VCAM-1 mediates monocyte adhesion to LSECs. However, the pathogenic role of VCAM-1 in NASH is unclear. Herein, we report that VCAM-1 was a top upregulated adhesion molecule in the NASH mouse liver transcriptome. Open chromatin landscape profiling combined with genome-wide transcriptome analysis showed robust transcriptional upregulation of LSEC VCAM-1 in murine NASH. Moreover, LSEC VCAM-1 expression was significantly increased in human NASH. LSEC VCAM-1 expression was upregulated by palmitate treatment in vitro and reduced with inhibition of the mitogen-activated protein 3 kinase (MAP3K) mixed lineage kinase 3 (MLK3). Likewise, LSEC VCAM-1 expression was reduced in the Mlk3-/- mice with diet-induced NASH. Furthermore, VCAM-1 neutralizing Ab or pharmacological inhibition attenuated diet-induced NASH in mice, mainly via reducing the proinflammatory monocyte hepatic population as examined by mass cytometry by time of flight (CyTOF). Moreover, endothelium-specific Vcam1 knockout mice were also protected against NASH. In summary, lipotoxic stress enhances the expression of LSEC VCAM-1, in part, through MLK3 signaling. Inhibition of VCAM-1 was salutary in murine NASH and might serve as a potential therapeutic strategy for human NASH.
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