ZFIN ID: ZDB-PUB-170504-15
Serotonin Activated Hepatic Stellate Cells Contribute to Sex Disparity in Hepatocellular Carcinoma
Yang, Q., Yan, C., Yin, C., Gong, Z.
Background & aims Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) occurs more frequently and aggressively in men than in women. Although sex hormones are believed to play a critical role in this disparity, the possible contribution of other factors largely is unknown. We aimed to investigate the role of serotonin on its contribution of sex discrepancy during HCC.
Methods By using an inducible zebrafish HCC model through hepatocyte-specific transgenic krasV12 expression, differential rates of HCC in male and female fish were characterized by both pharmaceutical and genetic interventions. The findings were validated further in human liver disease samples.
Results Accelerated HCC progression was observed in krasV12-expressing male zebrafish and male fish liver tumors were found to have higher hepatic stellate cell (HSC) density and activation. Serotonin, which is essential for HSC survival and activation, similarly were found to be synthesized and accumulated more robustly in males than in females. Serotonin-activated HSCs could promote HCC carcinogenesis and concurrently increase serotonin synthesis via transforming growth factor (Tgf)b1 expression, hence contributing to sex disparity in HCC. Analysis of liver disease patient samples showed similar male predominant serotonin accumulation and Tgfb1 expression.
Conclusions In both zebrafish HCC models and human liver disease samples, a predominant serotonin synthesis and accumulation in males resulted in higher HSC density and activation as well as Tgfb1 expression, thus accelerating HCC carcinogenesis in males.