The role of the apoptosis-related protein BCL-B in the regulation of mitophagy in hepatic stellate cells during the regression of liver fibrosis.


Department of Gastroenterology, The Second Hospital of Hebei Medical University, Hebei Key Laboratory of Gastroenterology, Hebei Institute of Gastroenterology, Shijiazhuang, Hebei, China. [Email]


The clearance of activated hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) by apoptosis is critical for the reversibility of hepatic fibrosis. Mitochondrial homeostasis is regulated by mitophagy, which is an efficient way of clearing injured mitochondria that plays an important role in apoptosis. However, the role of mitophagy in apoptosis in HSCs and hepatic fibrosis is still unclear. Here, we show that mitophagy is enhanced in parallel with increased apoptosis in hepatic stellate cells during the reversal of hepatic fibrosis. The inhibition of mitophagy suppressed apoptosis in HSCs and aggravated hepatic fibrosis in mice. In contrast, the activation of mitophagy induced apoptosis in HSCs. Furthermore, we confirmed that BCL-B, which is a member of the BCL-2 family, is a regulator mediating mitophagy-related apoptosis. The knockdown of BCL-B resulted in increased apoptosis and mitophagy in HSCs, while the overexpression of BCL-B caused the opposite effects. BCL-B inhibited the phosphorylation of Parkin (a key regulator of mitophagy) and directly bound phospho-Parkin. Altogether, enhanced mitophagy promotes apoptosis in HSCs during the reversal of hepatic fibrosis. BCL-B suppresses mitophagy in HSCs by binding and suppressing phospho-Parkin, thereby inhibiting apoptosis. BCL-B-dependent mitophagy is a new pathway for the regulation of apoptosis in HSCs during the regression of hepatic fibrosis.