PAK proteins and YAP-1 signalling downstream of integrin beta-1 in myofibroblasts promote liver fibrosis

Katherine Martin, James Pritchett, Jessica Llewellyn, Aoibheann F. Mullan, Varinder S. Athwal, Ross Dobie, Emma Harvey, Leo Zeef, Stuart Farrow, Charles Streuli, Neil C. Henderson, Scott L. Friedman, Neil A. Hanley*, Karen Piper Hanley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fibrosis due to extracellular matrix (ECM) secretion from myofibroblasts complicates many chronic liver diseases causing scarring and organ failure. Integrin-dependent interaction with scar ECM promotes pro-fibrotic features. However, the pathological intracellular mechanism in liver myofibroblasts is not completely understood, and further insight could enable therapeutic efforts to reverse fibrosis. Here, we show that integrin beta-1, capable of binding integrin alpha-11, regulates the pro-fibrotic phenotype of myofibroblasts. Integrin beta-1 expression is upregulated in pro-fibrotic myofibroblasts in vivo and is required in vitro for production of fibrotic ECM components, myofibroblast proliferation, migration and contraction. Serine/threonine-protein kinase proteins, also known as P21-Activated kinase (PAK), and the mechanosensitive factor, Yes-Associated protein 1 (YAP-1) are core mediators of pro-fibrotic integrin beta-1 signalling, with YAP-1 capable of perpetuating integrin beta-1 expression. Pharmacological inhibition of either pathway in vivo attenuates liver fibrosis. PAK protein inhibition, in particular, markedly inactivates the pro-fibrotic myofibroblast phenotype, limits scarring from different hepatic insults and represents a new tractable therapeutic target for treating liver fibrosis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12502
Number of pages11
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2016


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