Torres L, Garcia-Trevijano ER, Rodriguez JA, Carretero MV, Bustos M, Fernandez E, et al. Induction of TIMP-1 expression in rat hepatic stellate cells and hepatocytes: a new role for homocysteine in liver fibrosis. Biochim Biophys Acta 1999 Sep 20;1455(1):12-22.
Elevated plasma levels of homocysteine have been shown to interfere with normal cell function in a variety of tissues and organs, such as the vascular wall and the liver. However, the molecular mechanisms behind homocysteine effects are not completely understood. In order to better characterize the cellular effects of homocysteine, we have searched for changes in gene expression induced by this amino acid. Our results show that homocysteine is able to induce the expression and synthesis of the tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases-1 (TIMP-1) in a variety of cell types ranging from vascular smooth muscle cells to hepatocytes, HepG2 cells and hepatic stellate cells. In this latter cell type, homocysteine also stimulated alpha 1(I) procollagen mRNA expression. TIMP-1 induction by homocysteine appears to be mediated by its thiol group. Additionally, we demonstrate that homocysteine is able to promote activating protein-1 (AP-1) binding activity, which has been shown to be critical for TIMP-1 induction. Our findings suggest that homocysteine may alter extracellular matrix homeostasis on diverse tissular backgrounds besides the vascular wall. The liver could be considered as another target for such action of homocysteine. Consequently, the elevated plasma levels of this amino acid found in different pathological or nutritional circumstances may cooperate with other agents, such as ethanol, in the onset of liver fibrosis.