FOXS1 is increased in liver fibrosis and regulates TGFβ responsiveness and proliferation pathways in human hepatic stellate cells

Evelyn A. Bates, Zachary A. Kipp, Wang Hsin Lee, Genesee J. Martinez, Lauren Weaver, Kathryn N. Becker, Sally N. Pauss, Justin F. Creeden, Garrett B. Anspach, Robert N. Helsley, Mei Xu, Maria E.C. Bruno, Marlene E. Starr, Terry D. Hinds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Liver fibrosis commences with liver injury stimulating transforming growth factor beta (TGFβ) activation of hepatic stellate cells (HSCs), causing scarring and irreversible damage. TGFβ induces expression of the transcription factor Forkhead box S1 (FOXS1) in hepatocytes and may have a role in the pathogenesis of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). To date, no studies have determined how it affects HSCs. We analyzed human livers with cirrhosis, HCC, and a murine fibrosis model and found that FOXS1 expression is significantly higher in fibrotic livers but not in HCC. Next, we treated human LX2 HSC cells with TGFβ to activate fibrotic pathways, and FOXS1 mRNA was significantly increased. To study TGFβ-FOXS1 signaling, we developed human LX2 FOXS1 CRISPR KO and scrambled control HSCs. To determine differentially expressed gene transcripts controlled by TGFβ-FOXS1, we performed RNA-seq in the FOXS1 KO and control cells and over 400 gene responses were attenuated in the FOXS1 KO HSCs with TGFβ-activation. To validate the RNA-seq findings, we used our state-of-the-art PamGene PamStation kinase activity technology that measures hundreds of signaling pathways nonselectively in real time. Using our RNA-seq data, kinase activity data, and descriptive measurements, we found that FOXS1 controls pathways mediating TGFβ responsiveness, protein translation, and proliferation. Our study is the first to identify that FOXS1 may serve as a biomarker for liver fibrosis and HSC activation, which may help with early detection of hepatic fibrosis or treatment options for end-stage liver disease.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105691
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Authors


  • biomarker
  • cirrhosis
  • hepatocellular carcinoma
  • kinome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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