Cell biology and toxicology

Autophagy induced by purple pitanga (Eugenia uniflora L.) extract triggered a cooperative effect on inducing the hepatic stellate cell death.

PMID 27744523


Activated hepatic stellate cells (HSC) are the major source of collagen I in liver fibrosis. Eugenia uniflora L. is a tree species that is widely distributed in South America. E. uniflora L. fruit-popularly known as pitanga-has been shown to exert beneficial properties. Autophagy contributes to the maintenance of cellular homeostasis and survival under stress situation, but it has also been suggested to be an alternative cell death pathway. Mitochondria play a pivotal role on signaling cell death. Mitophagy of damaged mitochondria is an important cell defense mechanism against organelle-mediated cell death signaling. We previously found that purple pitanga extract induced mitochondrial dysfunction, cell cycle arrest, and death by apoptosis and necrosis in GRX cells, a well-established activated HSC line. We evaluated the effects of 72-h treatment with crescent concentrations of purple pitanga extract (5 to 100xa0μg/mL) on triggering autophagy in GRX cells, as this is an important mechanism to cells under cytotoxic conditions. We found that all treated cells presented an increase in the mRNA expression of autophagy-related protein 7 (ATG7). Concomitantly, flow cytometry and ultrastructural analysis of treated cells revealed an increase of autophagosomes/autolysosomes that consequentially led to an increased mitophagy. As purple pitanga extract was previously found to be broadly cytotoxic to GRX cells, we postulated that autophagy contributes to this scenario, where cell death seems to be an inevitable fate. Altogether, the effectiveness on inducing activated HSC death can make purple pitanga extract a good candidate on treating liver fibrosis.