Glycine N-methyltransferase (GNMT) is abundantly expressed in normal livers and plays a protective role against tumor formation. GNMT depletion leads to progression of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). In this study, we investigated the activity of ectopic GNMT delivered using recombinant adeno-associated virus (AAV) gene therapy in mouse models of liver cirrhosis and HCC. Injection of AAV serotype 8 (AAV8) vector carrying the GNMT gene (AAV8-GNMT) in Gnmt−/− mice increased GNMT expression and downregulated pro-inflammatory responses, resulting in reduced liver damage and incidence of liver tumors. Moreover, AAV8-GNMT resulted in the amelioration of carbon tetrachloride (CCl4)-induced liver fibrosis in BALB/c mice. We showed that AAV8-GNMT protected hepatocytes from CCl4-induced liver damage. AAV8-GNMT significantly attenuated the levels of pro-fibrotic markers and increased efficiency of hepatocyte proliferation. These results suggest that correction of hepatic GNMT by gene therapy of AAV8-mediated gene enhancement may provide a potential strategy for preventing and delaying development of liver diseases.
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