Hicks DF, Goossens N, Blas-García A et al.
Division of Liver Diseases, Department of Medicine, Liver Cancer Program, Tisch Cancer Institute, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, USA.
Scientific reports. Mar 2017.
We have used a computational approach to identify anti-fibrotic therapies by querying a transcriptome. A transcriptome signature of activated hepatic stellate cells (HSCs), the primary collagen-secreting cell in liver, and queried against a transcriptomic database that quantifies changes in gene expression in response to 1,309 FDA-approved drugs and bioactives (CMap). The flavonoid apigenin was among 9 top-ranked compounds predicted to have anti-fibrotic activity; indeed, apigenin dose-dependently reduced collagen I in the human HSC line, TWNT-4. To identify proteins mediating apigenin’s effect, we next overlapped a 122-gene signature unique to HSCs with a list of 160 genes encoding proteins that are known to interact with apigenin, which identified C1QTNF2, encoding for Complement C1q tumor necrosis factor-related protein 2, a secreted adipocytokine with metabolic effects in liver. To validate its disease relevance, C1QTNF2 expression is reduced during hepatic stellate cell activation in culture and in a mouse model of alcoholic liver injury in vivo, and its expression correlates with better clinical outcomes in patients with hepatitis C cirrhosis (n = 216), suggesting it may have a protective role in cirrhosis progression.These findings reinforce the value of computational approaches to drug discovery for hepatic fibrosis, and identify C1QTNF2 as a potential mediator of apigenin’s anti-fibrotic activity.