Active matrix metalloproteinase-2 promotes apoptosis of hepatic stellate cells via the cleavage of cellular N-cadherin

Stephen N. Hartland, Frank Murphy, Rebecca L. Aucott, Armand Abergel, Xiaoying Zhou, Julian Waung, Nishit Patel, Catherine Bradshaw, Jane Collins, Derek Mann, R. Christopher Benyon, John P. Iredale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and Aims

Hepatic stellate cells (HSC) are known to synthesise excess matrix that characterises liver fibrosis and cirrhosis. Activated HSC express the matrix-degrading matrix metalloproteinase enzymes (MMPs) and their tissue inhibitors (TIMPs). During spontaneous recovery from experimental liver fibrosis, the expression of TIMP-1 declines and hepatic collagenolytic activity increases. This is accompanied by HSC apoptosis. In this study, we examine a potential mechanism whereby MMP activity might induce HSC apoptosis by cleaving N-cadherin at the cell surface.


N-cadherin expression was upregulated in human HSC during activation in culture. Addition of function-blocking antibodies or a peptide targeting the extracellular domain of N-cadherin, to cultured HSC, promoted apoptosis. During apoptosis, there was cleavage of N-cadherin into 20-100 kDa fragments. MMP-2 became activated early during HSC apoptosis and directly cleaved N-cadherin in vitro. Addition of activated MMP-2 to HSCs in culture resulted in enhanced apoptosis and loss of N-cadherin.


Together, these studies identify a role for both N-cadherin and MMP-2 in mediating HSC apoptosis, where N-cadherin works to provide a cell survival stimulus and MMP-2 promotes HSC apoptosis concomitant with N-cadherin degradation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)966-978
Number of pages13
JournalLiver International
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2009


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