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Retinoids rescue ceruloplasmin secretion and alleviate oxidative stress in Wilson’s disease-specific hepatocytes

Wilson’s disease (WD) is a copper metabolic disorder caused by a defective ATP7B function. Conventional therapies cause severe side effects and significant variation in efficacy, according to cohort studies. Thus, exploring new therapeutic approaches to prevent progression to liver failure is urgent. To study the physiology and pathology of WD, immortalized cell lines and rodent WD models have been used conventionally; however, a large gap remains among different species as well as in genetic backgrounds among individuals. We generated induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from four WD patients carrying compound heterozygous mutations in the ATP7B gene. ATP7B loss- and gain-of-functions were further manifested with ATP7B-deficient iPSCs and heterozygously corrected R778L WD patient-derived iPSCs using CRISPR-Cas9-based gene editing. Although the expression of ATP7B protein varied among WD-specific hepatocytes differentiated from these iPSCs, the expression and secretion of ceruloplasmin (Cp), a downstream copper carrier in plasma, were consistently decreased in WD patient-derived and ATP7B-deficient hepatocytes. A transcriptome analysis detected abnormalities in the retinoid signaling pathway and lipid metabolism in WD-specific hepatocytes. Drug screening using WD patient-derived hepatocytes identified retinoids as promising candidates for rescuing Cp secretion. All-trans retinoic acid also alleviates reactive oxygen species production induced by lipid accumulation in WD-specific hepatocytes treated with oleic acid. These patient-derived iPSC-based hepatic models function as effective platforms for the development of potential therapeutics for hepatic steatosis in WD and other fatty liver diseases.