To the extent possible under law, AOP-Wiki has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to KE:134

Event: 134

Key Event Title

The KE title should describe a discrete biological change that can be measured. It should generally define the biological object or process being measured and whether it is increased, decreased, or otherwise definably altered relative to a control state. For example “enzyme activity, decreased”, “hormone concentration, increased”, or “growth rate, decreased”, where the specific enzyme or hormone being measured is defined. More help

Increased, Activation and Recruitment of Hepatic macrophages (Kupffer Cells)

Short name
The KE short name should be a reasonable abbreviation of the KE title and is used in labelling this object throughout the AOP-Wiki. The short name should be less than 80 characters in length. More help
Increased, Activation and Recruitment of Hepatic macrophages (Kupffer Cells)

Biological Context

Structured terms, selected from a drop-down menu, are used to identify the level of biological organization for each KE. Note, KEs should be defined within a particular level of biological organization. Only KERs should be used to transition from one level of organization to another. Selection of the level of biological organization defines which structured terms will be available to select when defining the Event Components (below). More help
Level of Biological Organization

Cell term

Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf.The biological context describes the location/biological environment in which the event takes place.  For molecular/cellular events this would include the cellular context (if known), organ context, and species/life stage/sex for which the event is relevant. For tissue/organ events cellular context is not applicable.  For individual/population events, the organ context is not applicable. More help
Cell term
Kupffer cell

Organ term

Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf.The biological context describes the location/biological environment in which the event takes place.  For molecular/cellular events this would include the cellular context (if known), organ context, and species/life stage/sex for which the event is relevant. For tissue/organ events cellular context is not applicable.  For individual/population events, the organ context is not applicable. More help

Key Event Components

Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf.Because one of the aims of the AOP-KB is to facilitate de facto construction of AOP networks through the use of shared KE and KER elements, authors are also asked to define their KEs using a set of structured ontology terms (Event Components). In the absence of structured terms, the same KE can readily be defined using a number of synonymous titles (read by a computer as character strings). In order to make these synonymous KEs more machine-readable, KEs should also be defined by one or more “event components” consisting of a biological process, object, and action with each term originating from one of 22 biological ontologies (Ives, et al., 2017; See List). Biological process describes dynamics of the underlying biological system (e.g., receptor signalling). The biological object is the subject of the perturbation (e.g., a specific biological receptor that is activated or inhibited). Action represents the direction of perturbation of this system (generally increased or decreased; e.g., ‘decreased’ in the case of a receptor that is inhibited to indicate a decrease in the signalling by that receptor).Note that when editing Event Components, clicking an existing Event Component from the Suggestions menu will autopopulate these fields, along with their source ID and description. To clear any fields before submitting the event component, use the 'Clear process,' 'Clear object,' or 'Clear action' buttons. If a desired term does not exist, a new term request may be made via Term Requests. Event components may not be edited; to edit an event component, remove the existing event component and create a new one using the terms that you wish to add. More help
Process Object Action
macrophage activation Kupffer cell increased

Key Event Overview

AOPs Including This Key Event

All of the AOPs that are linked to this KE will automatically be listed in this subsection. This table can be particularly useful for derivation of AOP networks including the KE. Clicking on the name of the AOP will bring you to the individual page for that AOP. More help


This is a structured field used to identify specific agents (generally chemicals) that can trigger the KE. Stressors identified in this field will be linked to the KE in a machine-readable manner, such that, for example, a stressor search would identify this as an event the stressor can trigger. NOTE: intermediate or downstream KEs in one AOP may function as MIEs in other AOPs, meaning that stressor information may be added to the KE description, even if it is a downstream KE in the pathway currently under development.Information concerning the stressors that may trigger an MIE can be defined using a combination of structured and unstructured (free-text) fields. For example, structured fields may be used to indicate specific chemicals for which there is evidence of an interaction relevant to this MIE. By linking the KE description to a structured chemical name, it will be increasingly possible to link the MIE to other sources of chemical data and information, enhancing searchability and inter-operability among different data-sources and knowledgebases. The free-text section “Evidence for perturbation of this MIE by stressor” can be used both to identify the supporting evidence for specific stressors triggering the MIE as well as to define broad chemical categories or other properties that classify the stressors able to trigger the MIE for which specific structured terms may not exist. More help

Taxonomic Applicability

Latin or common names of a species or broader taxonomic grouping (e.g., class, order, family) can be selected from an ontology. In many cases, individual species identified in these structured fields will be those for which the strongest evidence used in constructing the AOP was available in relation to this KE. More help
Term Scientific Term Evidence Link
human Homo sapiens High NCBI
human and other cells in culture human and other cells in culture High NCBI
mouse Mus musculus High NCBI
Rattus norvegicus Rattus norvegicus High NCBI

Life Stages

The structured ontology terms for life-stage are more comprehensive than those for taxa, but may still require further description/development and explanation in the free text section. More help

Sex Applicability

The authors must select from one of the following: Male, female, mixed, asexual, third gender, hermaphrodite, or unspecific. More help

Key Event Description

A description of the biological state being observed or measured, the biological compartment in which it is measured, and its general role in the biology should be provided. For example, the biological state being measured could be the activity of an enzyme, the expression of a gene or abundance of an mRNA transcript, the concentration of a hormone or protein, neuronal activity, heart rate, etc. The biological compartment may be a particular cell type, tissue, organ, fluid (e.g., plasma, cerebrospinal fluid), etc. The role in the biology could describe the reaction that an enzyme catalyses and the role of that reaction within a given metabolic pathway; the protein that a gene or mRNA transcript codes for and the function of that protein; the function of a hormone in a given target tissue, physiological function of an organ, etc. Careful attention should be taken to avoid reference to other KEs, KERs or AOPs. Only describe this KE as a single isolated measurable event/state. This will ensure that the KE is modular and can be used by other AOPs, thereby facilitating construction of AOP networks. More help

Kupffer cells (KCs) are a specialized population of macrophages that reside in the liver; they were first described by Carl Wilhelm von Kupffer (1829–1902). [1] KCs constitute 80%-90% of the tissue macrophages in the reticuloendothelial system and account for approximately 15% of the total liver cell population [2] They play an important role in normal physiology and homeostasis as well as participating in the acute and chronic responses of the liver to toxic compounds. Activation of KCs results in the release of an array of inflammatory mediators, growth factors, and reactive oxygen species. This activation appears to modulate acute hepatocyte injury as well as chronic liver responses including hepatic cancer. Understanding the role KCs play in these diverse responses is key to understanding mechanisms of liver injury.[3] Besides the release of inflammatory mediators including cytokines, chemokines, lysosomal and proteolytic enzymes KCs are a main source of TGF-β1 (transforming growth factor-beta 1, the most potent profibrogenic cytokine). In addition latent TGF-β1 can be activated by KC-secreted matrix metalloproteinase 9 (MMP-9). [4] [5] through the release of biologically active substances that promote the pathogenic process. Activated KCs also release ROS like superoxide generated by NOX (NADPH oxidase), thus contributing to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress also activates a variety of transcription factors like NF-κB, PPAR-γ leading to an increased gene expression for the production of growth factors, inflammatory cytokines and chemokines. KCs express TNF-α (Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha), IL-1 (Interleukin-1) and MCP-1 (monocyte-chemoattractant protein-1), all being mitogens and chemoattractants for hepatic stellate ceells (HSCs) and induce the expression of PDGF receptors on HSCs which enhances cell proliferation. Expressed TNF-α, TRAIL (TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand), and FasL (Fas Ligand) are not only pro-inflammatory active but also capable of inducing death receptor-mediated apoptosis in hepatocytes[6] [7][3] Under conditions of oxidative stress macrophages are further activated which leads to a more enhanced inflammatory response that again further activates KCs though cytokines (Interferon gamma (IFNγ), granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), TNF-α), bacterial lipopolysaccharides, extracellular matrix proteins, and other chemical mediators. [8] [9] Besides KCs, the resident hepatic macrophages, infiltrating bone marrow-derived macrophages, originating from circulating monocytes are recruited to the injured liver via chemokine signals. KCs appear essential for sensing tissue injury and initiating inflammatory responses, while infiltrating Ly-6C+ monocyte-derived macrophages are linked to chronic inflammation and fibrogenesis. The profibrotic functions of KCs (HSC activation via paracrine mechanisms) during chronic hepatic injury remain functionally relevant, even if the infiltration of additional inflammatory monocytes is blocked via pharmacological inhibition of the chemokine CCL2 [10] [11] KC activation and macrophage recruitment are two separate events and both are necessary for fibrogenesis, but as they occur in parallel, they can be summarised as one KE. Probably there is a threshold of KC activation and release above which liver damage is induced. Pre-treatment with gadolinium chloride (GdCl), which inhibits KC function, reduced both hepatocyte and sinusoidal epithelial cell injury, as well as decreased the numbers of macrophages appearing in hepatic lesions and inhibited TGF-β1 mRNA expression in macrophages. Experimental inhibition of KC function or depletion of KCs appeared to protect against chemical-induced liver injury.[12]

How It Is Measured or Detected

One of the primary considerations in evaluating AOPs is the relevance and reliability of the methods with which the KEs can be measured. The aim of this section of the KE description is not to provide detailed protocols, but rather to capture, in a sentence or two, per method, the type(s) of measurements that can be employed to evaluate the KE and the relative level of scientific confidence in those measurements. Methods that can be used to detect or measure the biological state represented in the KE should be briefly described and/or cited. These can range from citation of specific validated test guidelines, citation of specific methods published in the peer reviewed literature, or outlines of a general protocol or approach (e.g., a protein may be measured by ELISA).Key considerations regarding scientific confidence in the measurement approach include whether the assay is fit for purpose, whether it provides a direct or indirect measure of the biological state in question, whether it is repeatable and reproducible, and the extent to which it is accepted in the scientific and/or regulatory community. Information can be obtained from the OECD Test Guidelines website and the EURL ECVAM Database Service on Alternative Methods to Animal Experimentation (DB-ALM). ?

Kupffer cell activation can be measured by means of expressed cytokines, e.g. tissue levels of TNF-a [13], IL-6 expression, measured by immunoassays or Elisa (offered by various companies), soluble CD163 [14] [15] or increase in expression of Kupffer cell marker genes such as Lyz, Gzmb, and Il1b, (Genome U34A Array, Affymetrix); [16]

Domain of Applicability

This free text section should be used to elaborate on the scientific basis for the indicated domains of applicability and the WoE calls (if provided). While structured terms may be selected to define the taxonomic, life stage and sex applicability (see structured applicability terms, above) of the KE, the structured terms may not adequately reflect or capture the overall biological applicability domain (particularly with regard to taxa). Likewise, the structured terms do not provide an explanation or rationale for the selection. The free-text section on evidence for taxonomic, life stage, and sex applicability can be used to elaborate on why the specific structured terms were selected, and provide supporting references and background information.  More help

Human: [17][18][19] Rat: [5] Mouse: [20]


List of the literature that was cited for this KE description. Ideally, the list of references, should conform, to the extent possible, with the OECD Style Guide ( (OECD, 2015). More help
  1. Haubrich, W.S. (2004), Kupffer of Kupffer cells, Gastroenterology, vol. 127, no. 1, p. 16.
  2. Bouwens, L. et al. (1986), Quantitation, tissue distribution and proliferation kinetics of Kupffer cells in normal rat liver, Hepatology, vol. 6, no. 6, pp. 718-722.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Roberts, R.A. et al. (2007), Role of the Kupffer cell in mediating hepatic toxicity and carcinogenesis, Toxicol Sci, vol. 96, no. 1, pp. 2-15.
  4. Winwood, P.J., and M.J. Arthur (1993), Kupffer cells: their activation and role in animal models of liver injury and human liver disease, Semin Liver Dis, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 50-59.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Luckey, S.W., and D.R. Petersen (2001), Activation of Kupffer cells during the course of carbon tetrachloride-induced liver injury and fibrosis in rats, Exp Mol Pathol, vol. 71, no. 3, pp. 226-240.
  6. Guo, J. and S.L. Friedman (2007), Hepatic Fibrogenesis, Semin Liver Dis, vol. 27, no. 4, pp. 413-426.
  7. Friedman, S.L. (2002), Hepatic Fibrosis-Role of Hepatic Stellate Cell Activation, MedGenMed, vol. 4, no. 3, pp. 27.
  8. Kolios, G., V. Valatas and E. Kouroumalis (2006), Role of Kupffer Cells in the Pathogenesis of Liver Disease, World J.Gastroenterol, vol. 12, no. 46, pp. 7413-7420.
  9. Kershenobich Stalnikowitz, D. and A.B. Weisssbrod (2003), Liver Fibrosis and Inflammation. A Review, Annals of Hepatology, vol. 2, no. 4, pp.159-163.
  10. Baeck, C. et al. (2012), Pharmacological inhibition of the chemokine CCL2 (MCP-1) diminishes liver macrophage infiltration and steatohepatitis in chronic hepatic injury, Gut, vol. 61, no. 3, pp.416–426.
  11. Tacke, F. and H.W. Zimmermann (2014), Macrophage heterogeneity in liver injury and fibrosis, J Hepatol, vol. 60, no. 5, pp. 1090-1096.
  12. Ide, M. et al. (2005), Effects of gadolinium chloride (GdCl(3)) on the appearance of macrophage populations and fibrogenesis in thioacetamide-induced rat hepatic lesions, J. Comp. Path, vol. 133, no. 2-3, pp. 92–102.
  13. Vajdova, K. et al. (2004), Ischemic preconditioning and intermittent clamping improve murine hepatic microcirculation and Kupffer cell function after ischemic injury, Liver Transpl, vol. 10, no. 4, pp. 520–528.
  14. Grønbaek, H. et al. (2012), Soluble CD163, a marker of Kupffer cell activation, is related to portal hypertension in patients with liver cirrhosis, Aliment Pharmacol Ther, vol 36, no. 2, pp. 173-180.
  15. Møller, H.J. (2012), Soluble CD163.Scand J Clin Lab Invest, vol. 72, no. 1, pp. 1-13.
  16. Takahara, T et al. (2006), Gene expression profiles of hepatic cell-type specific marker genes in progression of liver fibrosis, World J Gastroenterol, vol. 12, no. 40, pp. 6473-6499.
  17. Su, G.L. et al. (2002), Activation of human and mouse Kupffer cells by lipopolysaccharide is mediated by CD14, Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol, vol. 283, no. 3, pp. G640-645.
  18. Kegel, V. et al. (2015), Subtoxic concentrations of hepatotoxic drugs lead to Kupffer cell activation in a human in vitro liver model: an approach to study DILI, Mediators Inflamm, 2015:640631,
  19. Boltjes, A. et al. (2014), The role of Kupffer cells in hepatitis B and hepatitis C virus infections, J Hepatol, vol. 61, no. 3, pp. 660-671.
  20. Dalton, S.R. et al. (2009), Carbon tetrachloride-induced liver damage in asialoglycoprotein receptor-deficient mice, Biochem Pharmacol, vol. 77, no. 7, pp. 1283-1290.