Hepatic recruitment of macrophages promotes nonalcoholic steatohepatitis through CCR2.
ABSTRACT Inflammatory cell infiltration in the liver is a hallmark of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). The chemokine-chemokine receptor interaction induces inflammatory cell recruitment. CC-chemokine receptor (CCR)2 is expressed on hepatic macrophages and hepatic stellate cells. This study aims to investigate the therapeutic potential of CCR2 to NASH. Twenty-two weeks on a choline-deficient amino acid-defined (CDAA) diet induced steatosis, inflammatory cell infiltration, and liver fibrosis with increased CCR2 and monocyte chemoattractant protein (MCP)-1 expression in the wild-type livers. The infiltrated macrophages expressed CD68, CCR2, and a marker of bone marrow-derived monocytes, Ly6C. CCR2(-/-) mice had less steatosis, inflammatory cell infiltration, and fibrosis, and hepatic macrophages expressing CD68 and Ly6C were decreased. Toll-like receptor (TLR)4(-/-), TLR9(-/-), and MyD88(-/-) mice had reduced hepatic macrophage infiltration with decreased MCP-1 and CCR2 expression because TLR signaling is a potent inducer of MCP-1. To assess the role of Kupffer cells at the onset of NASH, Kupffer cells were depleted by liposomal clodronate. The Kupffer cell depletion ameliorated steatohepatitis with a decrease in the MCP-1 expression and recruitment of Ly6C-expressing macrophages at the onset of NASH. Finally, to test the therapeutic potential of targeting CCR2, a CCR2 inhibitor was administered to mice on a CDAA diet. The pharmaceutical inhibition of CCR2 prevented infiltration of the Ly6C-positive macrophages, resulting in an inhibition of liver inflammation and fibrosis. We concluded that CCR2 and Kupffer cells contribute to the progression of NASH by recruiting bone marrow-derived monocytes.