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Unexpected Pro-Fibrotic Effect of MIF in Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis Is Linked to a Shift in NKT Cell Populations.

Cells. 2021 Jan 28;10(2):252. doi: 10.3390/cells10020252. PMID: 33525493.

Authors/Editors: Heinrichs D, Brandt EF, Fischer P, Köhncke J, Wirtz TH, Guldiken N, Djudjaj S, Boor P, Kroy D, Weiskirchen R, Bucala R, Wasmuth HE, Strnad P, Trautwein C, Bernhagen J, Berres ML.
Publication Date: 2021


Macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) is a pleiotropic inflammatory cytokine with anti-fibrotic properties in toxic liver injury models and anti-steatotic functions in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) attributed to the CD74/AMPK signaling pathway. As NAFLD progression is associated with fibrosis, we studied MIF function during NAFLD-associated liver fibrogenesis in mice and men by molecular, histological and immunological methods in vitro and in vivo. After NASH diet feeding, hepatic Mif expression was strongly induced, an effect which was absent in Mif∆hep mice. In contrast to hepatotoxic fibrosis models, NASH diet-induced fibrogenesis was significantly abrogated in Mif−/− and Mif∆hep mice associated with a reduced accumulation of the pro-fibrotic type-I NKT cell subpopulation. In vitro, MIF skewed the differentiation of NKT cells towards the type-I subtype. In line with the murine results, expression of fibrosis markers strongly correlated with MIF, its receptors, and markers of NKT type-I cells in NASH patients. We conclude that MIF expression is induced during chronic metabolic injury in mice and men with hepatocytes representing the major source. In NAFLD progression, MIF contributes to liver fibrogenesis skewing NKT cell polarization toward a pro-fibrotic phenotype highlighting the complex, context-dependent role of MIF during chronic liver injury.


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