Abstract

Background and Aims: Hepatic sinusoidal cells are known actors in the fibrogenic response to injury. Activated hepatic stellate cells (HSCs), liver sinusoidal endothelial cells, and Kupffer cells are responsible for sinusoidal capillarization and perisinusoidal matrix deposition, impairing vascular exchange and heightening the risk of advanced fibrosis. While the overall pathogenesis is well understood, functional relations between cellular transitions during fibrogenesis are only beginning to be resolved. At single-cell resolution, we here explored the heterogeneity of individual cell types and dissected their transitions and crosstalk during fibrogenesis. Approach and Results: We applied single-cell transcriptomics to map the heterogeneity of sinusoid-associated cells in healthy and injured livers and reconstructed the single-lineage HSC trajectory from pericyte to myofibroblast. Stratifying each sinusoidal cell population by activation state, we projected shifts in sinusoidal communication upon injury. Weighted gene correlation network analysis of the HSC trajectory led to the identification of core genes whose expression proved highly predictive of advanced fibrosis in patients with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Among the core members of the injury-repressed gene module, we identified plasmalemma vesicle–associated protein (PLVAP) as a protein amply expressed by mouse and human HSCs. PLVAP expression was suppressed in activated HSCs upon injury and may hence define hitherto unknown roles for HSCs in the regulation of microcirculatory exchange and its breakdown in chronic liver disease. Conclusions: Our study offers a single-cell resolved account of drug-induced injury of the mammalian liver and identifies key genes that may serve important roles in sinusoidal integrity and as markers of advanced fibrosis in human NASH.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHepatology
Volume72
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)2119-2133
ISSN0270-9139
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

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