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Loss of ATF3 exacerbates liver damage through the activation of mTOR/p70S6K/ HIF-1α signaling pathway in liver inflammatory injury.


Activating transcription factor 3 (ATF3) is a stress-induced transcription factor that plays important roles in regulating immune and metabolic homeostasis. Activation of the mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) and hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) transcription factors are crucial for the regulation of immune cell function. Here, we investigated the mechanism by which the ATF3/mTOR/HIF-1 axis regulates immune responses in a liver ischemia/reperfusion injury (IRI) model. Deletion of ATF3 exacerbated liver damage, as evidenced by increased levels of serum ALT, intrahepatic macrophage/neutrophil trafficking, hepatocellular apoptosis, and the upregulation of pro-inflammatory mediators. ATF3 deficiency promoted mTOR and p70S6K phosphorylation, activated high mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) and TLR4, inhibited prolyl-hydroxylase 1 (PHD1), and increased HIF-1α activity, leading to Foxp3 downregulation and RORγt and IL-17A upregulation in IRI livers. Blocking mTOR or p70S6K in ATF3 knockout (KO) mice or bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMMs) downregulated HMGB1, TLR4, and HIF-1α and upregulated PHD1, increasing Foxp3 and decreasing IL-17A levels in vitro. Silencing of HIF-1α in ATF3 KO mice ameliorated IRI-induced liver damage in parallel with the downregulation of IL-17A in ATF3-deficient mice. These findings demonstrated that ATF3 deficiency activated mTOR/p70S6K/HIF-1α signaling, which was crucial for the modulation of TLR4-driven inflammatory responses and T cell development. The present study provides potential therapeutic targets for the treatment of liver IRI followed by liver transplantation.

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