Adiponectin is protective against hepatic fibrosis, whereas leptin promotes fibrosis. In HSCs (hepatic stellate cells), leptin signals via a JAK2 (Janus kinase 2)/STAT3 (signal transducer and activator of transcription 3) pathway, producing effects that enhance ECM (extracellular matrix) deposition. SOCS-3 (suppressor of cytokine signalling-3) and PTP1B (protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B) are both negative regulators of JAK/STAT signalling, and recent studies have demonstrated a role for adiponectin in regulating SOCS-3 expression. In the present study we investigate mechanisms whereby adiponectin dampens leptin signalling and prevents excess ECM production. We treated culture-activated rat HSCs with recombinant adiponectin, leptin, both or neither, and also treated adiponectin knockout (Ad−/−) and wild-type mice with leptin and/or carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) or saline. We analyse JAK2 and Ob-Rb (long form of the leptin receptor) phosphorylation, and PTP1B expression and activity. We also explore potential mechanisms through which adiponectin regulates SOCS-3–Ob-Rb association. Adiponectin inhibits leptin-stimulated JAK2 activation and Ob-Rb phosphorylation in HSCs, whereas both were increased in Ad−/− mice. Adiponectin stimulates PTP1B expression and activity in vitro, whereas PTP1B expression was lower in Ad−/−mice than in wild-type mice. Adiponectin also promotes SOCS-3–Ob-R association and blocks leptin-stimulated formation of extracellular TIMP-1 (tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases-1)–MMP-1 (matrix metalloproteinase-1) complexes in vitro. These results suggest two novel mechanisms whereby adiponectin inhibits hepatic fibrosis: (i) by promoting binding of SOCS-3 to Ob-Rb, and (ii) by stimulating PTP1B expression and activity, thus inhibiting JAK2/STAT3 signalling at multiple points.

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