Phosphorylated heat shock protein 27 promotes lipid clearance in hepatic cells through interacting with STAT3 and activating autophagy

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has become the major liver disease worldwide. Recently, several studies have identified that the activation of autophagy attenuates hepatic steatosis. Heat shock protein 27 (Hsp27) is involved in autophagy in response to various stimuli. In this study, we demonstrate that phosphorylated Hsp27 stimulates autophagy and lipid droplet clearance and interacts with STAT3. In vivo study showed that high fat diet (HFD) feeding increased Hsp25 (mouse orthology of Hsp27) phosphorylation and autophagy in mouse livers. Inhibition of Hsp25 phosphorylation exacerbated HFD-induced hepatic steatosis in mice. In vitro study showed that palmitate-induced lipid overload in hepatic cells was enhanced by Hsp27 knockdown, KRIBB3 treatment and Hsp27-3A (non-phosphorylatable) overexpression but was prevented by Hsp27-WT (wild type) and Hsp27-3D (phosphomimetic) overexpression. Mechanism analysis demonstrated that palmitate could induce Hsp27 phosphorylation which promoted palmitate-induced autophagy. Phosphorylated Hsp27 interacted with STAT3 in response to palmitate treatment, and disrupted the STAT3/PKR complexes, facilitated PKR-dependent eIF2α phosphorylation, and thus stimulated autophagy. To conclude, our study provides a novel mechanism by which the phosphorylated Hsp27 promotes hepatic lipid clearance and suggests a new insight for therapy of steatotic diseases such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

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