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Sabine Klein, Carola-Ellen Kleine, Andrea Pieper, Michaela Granzow, Sebastian Gautsch, Mimoun Himmit, Katharina Kahrmann, Robert Schierwagen, Frank Erhard Uschner, Fernando Magdaleno, Maria Eleni Naoum, Glen Kristiansen, Thomas Walther, Michael Bader, Tilman Sauerbruch, Jonel Trebicka

Prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is increasing. Resulting fibrosis and portal hypertension, as a possible secondary event, may necessitate treatment. Overexpression of mouse renin in the transgenic rat model, TGR(mREN2)27, leads to spontaneous development of NAFLD. Therefore, we used TGR(mREN2)27 rats as a model of NAFLD where we hypothesized increased susceptibility and investigated fibrosis and portal hypertension and associated pathways. 12-week old TGR(mREN2)27 rats received either cholestatic (BDL) or toxic injury (CCl4 inhalation). Portal and systemic hemodynamic assessments were performed using microsphere technique with and without injection of the Janus-Kinase 2 (JAK2) inhibitor AG490 or the non-peptidic Ang(1-7) agonist, AVE0991. The extent of liver fibrosis was assessed in TGR(mREN2)27 and wild-type rats using standard techniques. Protein and mRNA levels of profibrotic, renin-angiotensin system components were assessed in liver and primary hepatic stellate cells (HSC) and hepatocytes. TGR(mREN2)27 rats developed spontaneous, but mild fibrosis and portal hypertension due to the activation of the JAK2/Arhgef1/ROCK pathway. AG490 decreased migration of HSC and portal pressure in isolated liver perfusions and in vivo. Fibrosis or portal hypertension after cholestatic (BDL) or toxic injury (CCl4) was not aggravated in TGR(mREN2)27 rats, probably due to decreased mouse renin expression in hepatocytes. Interestingly, portal hypertension was even blunted in TGR(mREN2)27 rats (with or without additional injury) by AVE0991. TGR(mREN2)27 rats are a suitable model of spontaneous liver fibrosis and portal hypertension but not with increased susceptibility to liver damage. After additional injury, the animals can be used to evaluate novel therapeutic strategies targeting Mas.

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