PeerJ.2021 Sep 14;9:e12138.doi: 10.7717/peerj.12138.eCollection 2021.

Glucosylceramide synthase regulates hepatocyte repair after concanavalin A-induced immune-mediated liver injury

Jian Gan  1 Qin Gao  2 Li Li Wang  3 Ai Ping Tian  4 Long Dong Zhu  4 Li Ting Zhang  4 Wei Zhou  5 Xiao Rong Mao  1   4 Jun Feng Li  1   4   5 Affiliations

Free PMC article


Background: Sphingolipids produce pleiotropic signaling pathways, and participate in the pathological mechanism of hepatocyte apoptosis and necrosis during liver injury. However, the role of glucosylceramide synthase (GCS)-key enzyme that catalyzes the first glycosylation step, in liver injury is still vague.

Methods: All experiments were conducted using 7-9-week-old pathogen-free male C57BL/6 mice. Serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) levels were detected in murine models of liver disease, in addition to histological characterization of liver injuries. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) was used to detect the relative expression of the GCS, matrix metallopeptidase-1 (MMP-1), and tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-1 (TIMP-1) genes. The GCS was observed through a fluorescence microscope, and the flow cytometry was used to detect hepatocyte apoptosis. The concentrations of serum IL-4, IL-6, and IL-10 were measured using enzyme-linked immune-sorbent assay (ELISA) kit. MMP-1 and TIMP-1 protein expression was measured via western blot (WB) analysis.

Results: Con A is often used as a mitogen to activate T lymphocytes and promote mitosis. A single dose of Con A injected intravenously will cause a rapid increase of ALT and AST, which is accompanied by the release of cytokines that cause injury and necrosis of hepatocytes. In this study, we successfully induced acute immune hepatitis in mice by Con A. Con A administration resulted in GCS upregulation in liver tissues. Moreover, the mice in the Con A group had significantly higher levels of ALT, AST, IL-4, IL-6, IL-10 and increased hepatocyte apoptosis than the control group. In contrast, all of the aforementioned genes were significantly downregulated after the administration of a GCS siRNA or Genz-123346 (i.e., a glucosylceramide synthase inhibitor) to inhibit the GCS gene. Additionally, the histopathological changes observed herein were consistent with our ALT, AST, IL-4, IL-6, and IL-10 expression results. However, unlike this, hepatocyte apoptosis has been further increased on the basis of the Con A group. Moreover, our qRT-PCR and WB results indicated that the expression of MMP-1 in the Con A group was significantly lower than that in the control group, whereas TIMP-1 exhibited the opposite trend. Conversely, MMP-1 expression in the GCS siRNA and Genz-123346 groups was higher than that in the Con A group, whereas TIMP-1 expression was lower.

Conclusions: GCS inhibition reduces Con A-induced immune-mediated liver injury in mice, which may be due to the involvement of GCS in the hepatocyte repair process after injury.

Keywords: Concanavalin A; Glucosylceramide synthase; Glycosphingolipid; Liver injury; UDP-glucose ceramide glucosyltransferase.