BioScience Trends. 2024;18(3):289-302. (DOI: 10.5582/bst.2024.01097)

Suppression of STK39 weakens the MASLD/MASH process by protecting the intestinal barrier

Xu Q, Liu F, Wu Z, Chen M, Zhou Y, Shi Y


STK39 is reportedly a critical negative regulator of intestinal barrier. Pharmacological targeting of STK39 is expected to protect the intestinal barrier and thereby weaken metabolic dysfunction-associated steatohepatitis (MASH); Proximal colon biopsy tissues from patients with metabolic dysfunction-associated steatotic liver disease (MASLD) and those without MASLD were analyzed for STK39 expression. Wildtype (WT) mice and systemic STK39 gene knockout (STK39-/-) male mice were fed a normal diet or a high-fat methionine-choline deficient diet (HFMCD) for 8 weeks. The MASH mice were grouped and treated with ZT-1a (a STK39 inhibitor) or vehicle intraperitoneal injection during the procedure of HFMCD induction. Liver and intestinal tissues were collected for further examination; Colon tissues from patients with MASLD exhibited higher levels of STK39 than those from subjects without MASLD. Knockout of STK39 diminished CD68+ Kupffer cells and α-SMA+ hepatic stellate cells infiltration in mouse MASH model. Treatment with ZT-1a also prevented severe steatohepatitis in a mouse MASH model, including milder histological and pathological manifestations (lobular inflammation and fibrosis) in the liver. Interestingly, Inhibition of STK39 had minimal effects on hepatic lipid metabolism. The reduced liver injury observed in mice with STK39 inhibition was linked to significant decreases in mucosal inflammation, tight junction disruption and intestinal epithelial permeability to bacterial endotoxins; Collectively, we have revealed that inhibiting STK39 prevents the progression of MASH by protecting the intestinal epithelial barrier.

KEYWORDS: STK39, ZT-1a, MASLD/MASH, intestinal barrier

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