Stem cell-derived tyrosine kinase (STK) is a transmembrane receptor reported to play a role in macrophage switching from a classically activated/proinflammatory phenotype to an alternatively activated/wound repair phenotype. In the present studies, STK -/- mice were used to assess the role of STK in acetaminophen-induced hepatotoxicity as evidence suggests that the pathogenic process involves both of these macrophage subpopulations. In wild type mice, centrilobular hepatic necrosis and increases in serum transaminase levels were observed within 6h of acetaminophen administration (300mg/kg, i.p.). Loss of STK resulted in a significant increase in sensitivity of mice to the hepatotoxic effects of acetaminophen and increased mortality, effects independent of its metabolism. This was associated with reduced levels of hepatic glutathione, rapid upregulation of inducible nitric oxide synthase, and prolonged induction of heme oxygenase-1, suggesting excessive oxidative stress in STK -/- mice. F4/80, a marker of mature macrophages, was highly expressed on subpopulations of Kupffer cells in livers of wild type, but not STK -/- mice. Whereas F4/80 + macrophages rapidly declined in the livers of wild type mice following acetaminophen intoxication, they increased in STK -/- mice. In wild type mice hepatic expression of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, interleukin (IL)-1β, and IL-12, products of classically activated macrophages, increased after acetaminophen administration. Monocyte chemotactic protein-1 (MCP-1) and its receptor, CCR2, as well as IL-10, mediators involved in recruiting and activating anti-inflammatory/wound repair macrophages, also increased in wild type mice after acetaminophen. Loss of STK blunted the effects of acetaminophen on expression of TNFα, IL-1β, IL-12, MCP-1 and CCR2, while expression of IL-10 increased. Hepatic expression of CX3CL1, and its receptor, CX3CR1 also increased in STK -/- mice treated with acetaminophen. These data demonstrate that STK plays a role in regulating macrophage recruitment and activation in the liver following acetaminophen administration, and in hepatotoxicity.
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