BACKGROUND/AIMS:Liver fibrosis is a complex process of tissue remodeling in response to injury. Hepatic macrophages have been identified as a key player in this process. As the largest lymphoid organ in the body, the spleen exerts both local and systemic effects on immune cell response. Splenectomy can improve hepatic function during the treatment of liver cirrhosis. However, whether the spleen influences disease progression through the modulation of hepatic macrophages remains unclear. METHODS:We examined ex vivo hepatic macrophage responses from splenectomized or sham operated rats and performed splenocyte adoptive transfer studies, in combination with in vivo CCL2 blockade, in splenectomized or sham operated rats. RESULTS:We found that splenectomy reduced fibrosis severity and monocyte/ macrophage infiltration within the injured liver. Splenectomy also reduced secretion of the monocyte chemokine CCL2 by hepatic macrophages. Ex vivo, splenocytes, especially splenic macrophages, promoted CCL2 secretion via upregulation of SOCS3 signaling in hepatic macrophages. Migration of splenic monocytes in response to conditioned medium from hepatic macrophages was inhibited by the blockade of SOCS3-CCL2-CCR2 signaling. Splenectomy also attenuated the establishment of an M1-dominant hepatic macrophage phenotype whilst the adoptive transfer of splenocytes could partly reverse this effect and exacerbate fibrosis. However, CCL2 blockade following adoptive splenocyte transfer restored the protective effects of splenectomy. CONCLUSION:Our study demonstrates that splenic macrophages can promote hepatic macrophage secretion of CCL2, which in turn facilitates monocyte recruitment and the establishment of an M1-dominant hepatic macrophage phenotype, and thus increase the severity of liver fibrosis.