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Activated hepatic stellate cells (aHSC) are the main source of extra cellular matrix in liver fibrosis. Activation is classically divided in two phases: initiation and perpetuation. Currently, HSC-based therapeutic candidates largely focus on targeting the aHSCs in the perpetuation phase. However, the importance of HSC initiation during chronic liver disease (CLD) remains unclear. Here, we identified transcriptional programs of initiating and activated HSCs by RNA sequencing, using in vitro and in vivo mouse models of fibrosis. Importantly, we show that both programs are active in HSCs during murine and human CLD. In human cirrhotic livers, scar associated mesenchymal cells employ both transcriptional programs at the single cell level. Our results indicate that the transcriptional programs that drive the initiation of HSCs are still active in humans suffering from CLD. We conclude that molecules involved in the initiation of HSC activation, or in the maintenance of aHSCs can be considered equally important in the search for druggable targets of chronic liver disease.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1110
Number of pages10
JournalCell & Death Disease
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

© 2021. The Author(s).


  • Activated hepatic stellate cells
  • liver fibrosis
  • extra cellular matrix
  • chronic liver disease


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