STAT3 inhibition suppresses hepatic stellate cell fibrogenesis: HJC0123, a potential therapeutic agent for liver fibrosis
Hepatic Stellate Cells (HSCs) are the major source of the excessive extracellular matrix (ECM) production that replaces liver parenchyma with fibrous tissue during liver fibrosis. The signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) promotes HCSs survival, proliferation, and activation contributing to fibrogenesis. We have previously used a fragment-based drug design approach and have discovered a novel STAT3 inhibitor, HJC0123. Here, we explored the biological effects of HJC0123 on the fibrogenic properties of HSCs. HJC0123 treatment resulted in the inhibition of HSCs proliferation at submicromolar concentrations. HJC0123 reduced the phosphorylation, nuclear translocation, and transcriptional activity of STAT3. It decreased the expression of STAT3-regulated proteins, induced cell cycle arrest, promoted apoptosis and downregulated SOCS3. HJC0123 treatment inhibited HSCs activation and downregulated ECM protein fibronectin and type I collagen expression. In addition, HJC0123 increased IL-6 production and decreased TGF-β induced Smad2/3 phosphorylation. These results demonstrate that HJC0123 represents a novel STAT3 inhibitor that suppresses the fibrogenic properties of HSCs, suggesting its therapeutic potential in liver fibrosis.