The endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoyl glycerol induces death of hepatic stellate cells via mitochondrial reactive oxygen species.FASEB J. 2007 Sep; 21(11):2798-806.FJ
The endocannabinoid system is an important regulator of hepatic fibrogenesis. In this study, we determined the effects of 2-arachidonoyl glycerol (2-AG) on hepatic stellate cells (HSCs), the main fibrogenic cell type in the liver. Culture-activated HSCs were highly susceptible to 2-AG-induced cell death with >50% cell death at 10 microM after 18 h of treatment. 2-AG-induced HSC death showed typical features of apoptosis such as PARP- and caspase 3-cleavage and depended on reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation. Confocal microscopy revealed mitochondria as primary site of ROS production and demonstrated mitochondrial depolarization and increased mitochondrial permeability after 2-AG treatment. 2-AG-induced cell death was independent of cannabinoid receptors but required the presence of membrane cholesterol. Primary hepatocytes were resistant to 2-AG-induced ROS induction and cell death but became susceptible after GSH depletion suggesting antioxidant defenses as a critical determinant of 2-AG sensitivity. Hepatic levels of 2-AG were significantly elevated in two models of experimental fibrogenesis and reached concentrations that are sufficient to induce death in HSCs. These findings suggest that 2-AG may act as an antifibrogenic mediator in the liver by inducing cell death in activated HSCs but not hepatocytes.