BACKGROUND & AIMSPatients coinfected with HIV-1 and HCV develop more rapid liver fibrosis than patients monoinfected with HCV. HIV RNA levels correlate with fibrosis progression implicating HIV directly in the fibrotic process. While activated hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) express the 2 major HIV chemokine coreceptors, CXCR4 and CCR5, little is known about the pro-fibrogenic effects of the HIV-1 envelope protein, gp120, on HSCs. We therefore examined the in vitro impact of X4 gp120 on HSC activation, collagen I expression, and underlying signaling pathways and examined the in vivo expression of gp120 in HIV/HCV coinfected livers.METHODSPrimary human HSCs and LX-2 cells, a human HSC line, were challenged with X4 gp120 and expression of fibrogenic markers assessed by qRT-PCR and Western blot +/- either CXCR4-targeted shRNA or anti-CXCR4 neutralizing antibody. Downstream intracellular signaling pathways were evaluated with Western blot and pre-treatment with specific pathway inhibitors. Gp120 immunostaining was performed on HIV/HCV coinfected liver biopsies.RESULTSX4 gp 120 significantly increased expression of alpha-smooth muscle actin (a-SMA) and collagen I in HSCs which was blocked by pre-incubation with either CXCR4-targeted shRNA or anti-CXCR4 neutralizing antibody. Furthermore, X4 gp120 promoted Extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) 1/2 phosphorylation and pretreatment with an ERK inhibitor attenuated HSC activation and collagen I expression. Sinusoidal staining for gp120 was evident in HIV/HCV coinfected livers.CONCLUSIONSX4 HIV-1 gp120 is pro-fibrogenic through its interactions with CXCR4 on activated HSCs. The availability of small molecule inhibitors to CXCR4 make this a potential anti-fibrotic target in HIV/HCV coinfected patients.