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Event Title

Stellate cells, Activation
Short name: Stellate cells, Activation

Key Event Overview

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AOPs Including This Key Event

AOP Name Event Type Essentiality
Protein Alkylation leading to Liver Fibrosis KE Strong

Taxonomic Applicability

Name Scientific Name Evidence Links
human Homo sapiens Strong NCBI
human and other cells in culture Strong
Rattus norvegicus Rattus norvegicus Strong NCBI
mouse Mus musculus Strong NCBI
pigs Sus scrofa Strong NCBI

Level of Biological Organization

Biological Organization

How this Key Event works

Stellate cell activation means a transdifferentiation from a quiescent vitamin A–storing cell to a proliferative and contractile myofibroblast. Multiple cells and cytokines play a part in the regulation of hepatic stellate cell (HSC) activation that consists of discrete phenotype responses, mainly proliferation, contractility, fibrogenesis, matrix degradation, chemotaxis, and retinoid loss.

HSCs undergo activation through a two-phase process. The first step, the initiation phase, is triggered by injured hepatocytes, reactive oxygen speecies (ROS) and paracrine stimulation from neighbouring cell types (Kupffer cells (KCs), Liver sinusoidal endothelial cells (LSECs), and platelets) and make HSCs sensitized to activation by up-regulating various receptors. The perpetuation phase refers to the maintenance of HSC activation, which is a dynamic process including the secretion of autocrine and paracrine growth factors (such as TGF-β1), chemokines, and the up-regulation of collagen synthesis (mainly type I collagen). In response to growth factors (including Platelet-derived Growth Factor (PDGF) and Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF)) HSCs proliferate. Increased contractility (Endothelin-1 and NO are the key opposing counter-regulators that control HSC contractility, in addition to angiotensinogen II, and others) leads to increased portal resistance. Driven by chemoattractants their accumulation in areas of injury is enhanced. TGF-β1 synthesis promotes activation of neighbouring quiescent hepatic stellate cells, whereas the release of HGF (hepatocyte growth factor) stimulates regeneration of adjacent hepatocytes. The release of chemoattractants (monocyte chemoattractant protein-1(MCP-1) and colony-stimulating factors (CSFs)) amplifies inflammation. [1][2][3][4][5][6][7] Activated HSCs (myofibroblasts) are the primary collagen producing cell, the key cellular mediators of fibrosis and a nexus for converging inflammatory pathways leading to fibrosis. Experimental inhibition of stellate cell activation prevents fibrosis. [8][9]

How it is Measured or Detected

Alpha-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) is a well-known marker of hepatic stellate cells activation. Anti-alpha smooth muscle Actin [1A4] monoclonal antibody reacts with the alpha smooth muscle isoform of actin.

Gene expression profiling confirmed early changes for known genes related to HSC activation such as alpha smooth muscle actin (Acta2), lysyl oxidase (Lox) and collagen, type I, alpha 1 (Col1a1). Insulin-like growth factor binding protein 3 (Igfbp3) was identified as a gene strongly affected and as marker for culture-activated HSCs and plays a role in HSC migration. [10] [11]

Evidence Supporting Taxonomic Applicability

Human: [3] Rat: [9] Mouse: [12] Pig: [13]


  1. Lee, U.E. and S.L. Friedman (2011), Mechanisms of Hepatic Fibrogenesis, Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 195-206.
  2. Friedman, S.L (2010), Evolving challenges in hepatic fibrosis, Nat. Rev. Gastroenterol. Hepatol, vol. 7, no. 8, pp. 425–436.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Friedman, S.L. (2008), Mechanisms of Hepatic Fibrogenesis, Gastroenterology, vol. 134, no. 6, pp. 1655–1669.
  4. Friedman, S.L (2000), Molecular regulation of hepatic fibrosis, an integrated cellular response to tissue injury, J. Biol. Chem, vol. 275, no. 4, pp. 2247-2250.
  5. Bataller, R. and D.A. Brenner (2005), Liver Fibrosis, J.Clin. Invest, vol. 115, no. 2, pp. 209-218.
  6. Lotersztain, S. et al. (2005), Hepatic fibrosis: molecular mechanisms and drug targets, Annu. Rev. Pharmacol. Toxicol, vol. 45, pp. 605–628.
  7. Poli, G. (2000), Pathogenesis of liver fibrosis: role of oxidative stress, Mol Aspects Med, vol. 21, no. 3, pp. 49 – 98.
  8. Li, Jing-Ting et al. (2008), Molecular mechanism of hepatic stellate cell activation and antifibrotic therapeutic strategies, J Gastroenterol, vol. 43, no. 6, pp. 419–428.
  9. 9.0 9.1 George, J. et al. (1999), In vivo inhibition of rat stellate cell activation by soluble transforming growth factor beta type II receptor: a potential new therapy for hepatic fibrosis. Proc Natl Acad Sci, vol. 96, no. 22, pp. 12719-12724.
  10. Morini, S. et al. (2005), GFAP expression in the liver as an early marker of stellate cells activation, Ital J Anat Embryol, vol. 110, no. 4, pp. 193-207.
  11. Mannaerts, I. et al. (2013), Gene expression profiling of early hepatic stellate cell activation reveals a role for Igfbp3 in cell migration, PLoS One, vol. 8, no.12, e84071.
  12. Chang et al., 2014, Isolation and culture of hepatic stellate cells from mouse liver. Acta Biochim Biophys Sin (Shanghai).;46(4):291-8.
  13. Costa et al., 2001, Early activation of hepatic stellate cells and perisinusoidal extracellular matrix changes during ex vivo pig liver perfusion. J Submicrosc Cytol Pathol.;33(3):231-40.