Background & Aims: Acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF) is a clinical syndrome defined by liver failure on pre-existing chronic liver disease. It is often associated with bacterial infection and high short-term mortality. Experimental models that fully reproduce ACLF are lacking, so too are effective pharmacological therapies for this condition. Methods: To mimic ACLF conditions, we developed a severe liver injury model by combining chronic injury (chronic carbon tetrachloride [CCl4] injection), acute hepatic insult (injection of a double dose of CCl4), and bacterial infection (intraperitoneal injection of bacteria). Serum and liver samples from patients with ACLF or acute drug-induced liver injury (DILI) were used. Liver injury and regeneration were assessed to ascertain the potential benefits of interleukin-22 (IL-22Fc) administration. Results: This severe liver injury model recapitulated some of the key features of clinical ACLF, including acute-on-chronic liver injury, bacterial infection, multi-organ injury, and high mortality. Liver regeneration in this model was severely impaired because of a shift from the activation of the pro-regenerative IL-6/STAT3 pathway to the anti-regenerative IFN-γ/STAT1 pathway. The impaired IL-6/STAT3 activation was due to the inability of Kupffer cells to produce IL-6; whereas the enhanced STAT1 activation was due to a strong innate immune response and subsequent production of IFN-γ. Compared to patients with DILI, patients with ACLF had higher levels of IFN-γ but lower liver regeneration. IL-22Fc treatment improved survival in ACLF mice by reversing the STAT1/STAT3 pathway imbalance and enhancing expression of many antibacterial genes in a manner involving the anti-apoptotic protein BCL2. Conclusions: Acute-on-chronic liver injury or bacterial infection is associated with impaired liver regeneration due to a shift from a pro-regenerative to an anti-regenerative pathway. IL-22Fc therapy reverses this shift and attenuates bacterial infection, thus IL-22Fc may have therapeutic potential for ACLF treatment. Lay summary: A mouse model combining chronic liver injury, acute hepatic insult, and bacterial infection recapitulates some of the key features of acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF) in patients. Both fibrosis and bacterial infection contribute to the impaired regenerative capacity of the liver in patients with ACLF. Herein, we show that IL-22Fc therapy improves ACLF by reprogramming impaired regenerative pathways and attenuating bacterial infection. Thus, it may have therapeutic potential for patients with ACLF.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The basic research work was performed in and supported by the intramural program of NIAAA, NIH(BG) and the clinical study of ACLF patient liver samples was performed in Shanghai Ruijing Hospital and supported by Shanghai Municipal Key Clinical Specialty (YW20190002 to QX). Dr. Xiaogang Xiang was supported by a fellowship from Ruijing Hospital during his stay between 2017-2019 at the NIAAA,NIH.
The basic research work was performed in and supported by the intramural program of NIAAA, NIH (BG) and the clinical study of ACLF patient liver samples was performed in Shanghai Ruijing Hospital and supported by Shanghai Municipal Key Clinical Specialty (YW20190002 to QX). Dr. Xiaogang Xiang was supported by a fellowship from Ruijing Hospital during his stay between 2017-2019 at the NIAAA,NIH .