Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Saitama Medical Center, Saitama Medical University, Saitama, Japan.
Osteopontin (OPN) is a multifunctional protein, involved in pathological conditions including inflammation, immunity, angiogenesis, fibrosis and cancer progression in various tissues. Hepatic inflammation and fibrosis induced by feeding with a diet deficient in methionine and choline (MCD diet) were markedly attenuated in OPN knockout mice when compared with wild-type mice in the model of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Hepatic cholangiocytes, myofibroblastic stellate cells and natural killer T cells were suggested to secret OPN in mice fed an MCD diet. Plasma and hepatic OPN levels were significantly higher in patients with NASH with advanced fibrosis than in those with early fibrosis. Hepatic OPN mRNA level was correlated with hepatic neutrophil infiltration and fibrosis in patients with alcoholic liver diseases. In those with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), OPN levels in plasma and HCC were prognostic factors after liver resection or transplantation. Downregulation of OPN inhibited tumor growth and lung metastasis in nude mice implanted with HCC cells. The single nucleotide polymorphism in the promoter region of the OPN gene was shown to be associated with activity of hepatitis in chronic hepatitis C patients, prognosis in patients with HCC, and growth and lung metastasis of HCC xenografts in nude mice. OPN was reported to be a downstream effecter of Hedgehog pathway, which modulates hepatic fibrosis and carcinogenesis. This review focuses on the roles of OPN in hepatic inflammation, fibrosis and cancer progression. Further elucidation of cellular interactions and molecular mechanisms associated with OPN actions may contribute to development of novel strategies for treatment of the liver diseases.