Inflammatory regulation of steroid sulfatase: A novel mechanism to control estrogen homeostasis and inflammation in chronic liver disease



Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of Hepatology





First Page


Last Page





Estrogen metabolism, Estrogens, Inflammation, Liver disease, Steroid sulfatase


Background & Aims Chronic inflammatory liver diseases are associated with estrogen excess and feminization in men, which is thought to be due to compromised liver function to break down estrogens. The goal of this study is to determine whether the inflammatory induction of steroid sulfatase (STS), which converts inactive estrogen sulfates to active estrogens, may have contributed to the estrogen excess in chronic liver disease. Methods We performed bioinformatic analysis, real-time PCR, immunohistochemistry, and UPLC/MS-MS to analyze hepatic STS expression and serum estrogen levels in patients with chronic liver diseases. The crosstalk between NF-κB pathway and STS-regulated estrogen signaling was investigated by electrophoretic mobility shift assay, chromatin immunoprecipitation, luciferase assay and gene knockdown experiments in human hepatocytes. Results Hepatic STS was induced in patients with chronic inflammatory liver diseases, which was accompanied by increased circulating estrogen levels. The human STS gene, but not the mouse Sts gene, was induced by inflammatory stimuli in hepatic cells. Mechanistically, STS was established as a novel NF-κB target gene, whose induction facilitated the conversion of inactive estrogen sulfates to active estrogens, and consequently attenuated the inflammatory response. In contrast, genetic or pharmacological inhibition of STS or a direct blockade of estrogen signaling sensitized liver cells to the transcriptional activation of NF-κB and inflammatory response, possibly through the inhibition of IκB kinase activation. Conclusions Our results suggest a negative feedback loop in chronic inflammatory liver diseases, in which the inflammatory activation of NF-κB induces STS gene expression. The induced STS facilitates the conversion of inactive estrogen sulfates to active estrogens, which in return attenuates the NF-κB-mediated inflammation.

Open Access

Green Accepted