Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is an autoimmune disease characterized by vascular alterations and immunological disturbances and fibrosis, the order of which remains to be fully determined. Clinically, patients show clear signs of hypoxia in skin and internal organs. The low oxygen tension is potentially caused by a yet to be indentified circuitry involving the three features that typify SSc. In addition, once present, the hypoxia creates a vicious circle of ongoing pathology. In this paper, we provide an overview of the evidence that points towards the mechanisms causing hypoxia in SSc. In addition, data that suggest how hypoxia itself may orchestrate worsening of symptoms is presented. Altogether, it is clear that hypoxia is an important hallmark in SSc patients. By providing an overview of the mechanisms at play and the possible therapeutic avenues that have emerged, we hope to stimulate researchers to provide novel clues into the conundrum in SSc patients.
Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is a connective tissue disorder characterized by tissue hypoxia due to vascular changes and excessive fibrosis of the skin and internal organs. Damage to blood vessels and endothelium, as well as imbalance of vascular homeostasis, impairment of angiogenesis and vasculogenesis are observed in the course of the disease. The aim of the study was to investigate the pro-angiogenic factors angiogenin and SDF-1α in patients with SSc.
Material and methods
Serum samples were collected from 50 patients with dSSc (diffuse SSc) and lSSc (limited SSc) and from 38 patients used as a healthy control group. We explored: 1) how the serum concentrations of SDF-1α and angiogenin differ in the investigated groups; 2) the correlation among chemokines in SSc and the duration of the disease, Raynaud’s phenomenon, sclerosis of the skin and TSS (total skin score).
Patients with SSc showed statistically significantly higher serum angiogenin concentration and there was no correlation between duration of the disease and Raynaud’s phenomenon, skin sclerosis or TSS. There was also no difference or no correlation between serum level of SDF-1α and the investigated groups.
The increase in angiogenin concentration in the serum in patients with SSc may confirm endothelial damage caused by hypoxia and reduced vascular perfusion due to the course of SSc without contributing to compensatory revascularization.
systemic sclerosis; angiogenesis; vasculogenesis; angiogenin; SDF-1α
Fibrosis of oesophagus, lungs, heart, and kidney in the course of
systemic sclerosis (SSc) may lead to dysfunction of the above
organs or even patients death. Recent studies point out
the role of angiogenesis and fibrosis disturbances in the
pathogenesis of SSc. Heart fibrosis is one of the most important
prognostic factors in SSc patients. So, the aim of our study was
to examine cardiovascular dysfunction in SSc patients and its
correlation with serum levels of vascular endothelial growth
factor (VEGF), endostatin, and tissue inhibitor of
metalloproteinase 2 (TIMP2). The study group comprised 34
patients (19 with limited scleroderma (lSSc) and 15 with diffuse
scleroderma (dSSc)). The control group consisted of 20 healthy
persons, age and sex matched. Internal organ involvement was
assessed on the basis of specialist procedures. Serum VEGF,
endostatin, and TIMP2 levels were evaluated by ELISA. We found
cardiovascular changes in 15 patients with SSc (8 with lSSc and
7 with dSSc). The observed symptoms were of different characters
and also coexisted with each other. Higher endostatin serum
levels in all systemic sclerosis patients in comparison to the
control group were demonstrated (P < .05). Also higher serum
levels of endostatin and TIMP2 were observed in patients with
cardiovascular changes in comparison to the patients without
such changes (P < .05). The obtained results support the notion
that angiogenesis and fibrosis disturbances may play an important
role in SSc. Evaluation of endostatin and TIMP2 serum levels
seems to be one of the noninvasive, helpful examinations of heart
involvement in the course of systemic sclerosis.
Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is characterised by disturbed vessel morphology and an overproduction of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). The VEGF gene located on chromosome 6p21.3 has several polymorphisms.
To test the hypothesis that disturbed angiogenesis may be related to the genetic background of the VEGF gene.
Materials and methods
EUSTAR centres included European Caucasian patients with SSc and matched controls with osteoarthritis. The VEGF gene was genotyped by polymerase chain reaction, followed by restriction enzyme analysis. The 634 C/T and 936 C/G mutations and an 18‐base pair insertion/deletion at −2549 of the VEGF promoter region were tested.
416 patients with SSc and 249 controls were included in the study population. Of the patients with SSc, 42% had a diffuse cutaneous subtype, 16% had increased pulmonary arterial pressure and 61% had decreased carbon monoxide diffusion capacity. The genotype frequencies in the patients with SSc and in controls were in Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium. The allele and genotype frequencies of the polymorphisms did not differ between patients with SSc and controls. No association was found between these polymorphisms and disease phenotypes.
This study shows that there is no association between the three selected functional VEGF polymorphisms and SSc.
Background: In systemic sclerosis (SSc) the lack of an angiogenic response to hypoxia may be due to inappropriate synthesis of angiogenic and angiostatic factors. Tissue kallikrein (t-kallikrein), regulating the kallikrein-kinin system and acting on the microcirculation, is a potent angiogenic agent, and kallistatin is its natural inhibitor.
Objective: To evaluate, in patients with SSc, t-kallikrein and kallistatin levels and their correlation with clinical features and measures of microvascular involvement.
Patients and methods: Serum levels of t-kallikrein and kallistatin (ELISA) and t-kallikrein skin expression (immunohistochemistry) were studied in patients with SSc, and evaluated for subset (dSSc or lSSc), clinical and immunological features, and microvascular involvement (ulcers, telangiectasias, nailfold videocapillaroscopy).
Results: Circulating levels of t-kallikrein were higher in SSc than in controls (p<0.001). T-kallikrein did not differ between lSSc and dSSc, although it was higher in lSSc than in controls (p<0.001).T-kallikrein levels were higher in patients with early and active capillaroscopic pattern than in those with late pattern (p = 0.019 and 0.023). Patients with giant capillaries and capillary microhaemorrhages had higher t-kallikrein concentrations than patients with architectural derangement (p = 0.04). No differences in kallistatin levels were detected between patients with SSc and controls, or between lSSc and dSSc. In early SSc skin, the presence of t-kallikrein was found in endothelial and in perivascular inflammatory cells, while no staining in skin of advanced SSc was detected.
Conclusion: T-kallikrein levels are increased in patients with SSc, particularly in lSSc, and are associated with early and active capillaroscopic patterns. T-kallikrein may play a part in SSc microvascular changes.
A number of genetic loci have been identified that appear to be associated with systemic sclerosis (SSc; scleroderma). There is mounting evidence suggesting that these genetic associations may in fact be associated with distinct phenotypes in SSc based on autoantibody pattern rather than with SSc as a single disease entity. This may ultimately have implications for approaches to therapy as well as responses to therapy. The most promising candidate genes are those involved in pathways that lead to the vascular damage and fibrosis that are the hallmarks of this disease. There is uncertainty, however, regarding the nature of the key pathological mechanisms that link these two disease processes. Recent studies have focused on Fli1 (friend leukaemia integration 1), a transcription factor that is found in immune cells, fibroblasts, and endothelial cells that regulates collagen gene function and angiogenesis. Fli1 is dysregulated in SSc skin and dermal blood vessels, and appears to play a pathological role in SSc skin fibrosis and vessel degeneration. Whether this dysregulation is due to genetic polymorphisms in the Fli1 pathway or to epigenetic mechanisms is not clear.
There is no optimal screening tool for the assessment of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) in patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc). A decreasing transfer factor of the lung for CO (TLCO) is associated with the development of PAH in SSc. TLCO can be partitioned into the diffusion of the alveolar capillary membrane (Dm) and the capillary blood volume (Vc). The use of the partitioned diffusion to detect PAH in SSc is not well established yet. This study evaluates whether Dm and Vc could be candidates for further study of the use for screening for PAH in SSc.
Eleven SSc patients with PAH (SScPAH+), 13 SSc patients without PAH (SScPAH-) and 10 healthy control subjects were included. Pulmonary function testing took place at diagnosis of PAH. TLCO was partitioned according to Roughton and Forster. As pulmonary fibrosis in SSc influences values of the (partitioned) TLCO, these were adjusted for fibrosis score as assessed on HRCT.
TLCO as percentage of predicted (%) was lower in SScPAH+ than in SScPAH- (41 ± 7% vs. 63 ± 12%, p < 0.0001, respectively). Dm% in SScPAH+ was decreased as compared with SScPAH- (22 ± 6% vs. 39 ± 12%, p < 0.0001, respectively), also after adjustment for total fibrosis score (before adjustment: B = 17.5, 95% CI 9.0–25.9, p = < 0.0001; after adjustment: B = 14.3, 95% CI 6.0–21.7, p = 0.008). No difference was found in Vc%. There were no correlations between pulmonary hemodynamic parameters and Dm% in the PAH groups.
SScPAH+ patients have lower Dm% than SScPAH- patients. There are no correlations between Dm% and hemodynamic parameters of PAH in SScPAH+. These findings do not support further study of the role of partitioning TLCO in the diagnostic work- up for PAH in SSc.
Tubulointerstitial hypoxia and peritubular capillary rarefaction are typical features of chronic progressive renal disease. In response to low oxygen supply, hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) are activated but until now, it is unclear if this increased expression leads to a stabilization of the disease process and thus is nephroprotective or contributes to interstitial fibrosis and/or tubular atrophy. This duality has also been described as far as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), one of the major target genes of HIFs, is concerned. On the one hand, neoangiogenesis driven by VEGF, if intact, ameliorates hypoxia, on the other, VEGF is a potent pro-inflammatory mediator and neoangiogenesis, if defective because interference by other pathologies exaggerates injury. In summary, experimental data support the idea that dependent on timing and predominant pathology, hypoxia counter-regulatory factors exert beneficial or undesirable effects. Thus, before their therapeutic potential can be fully explored, a better way to characterize the clinical and pathophysiological situation in an individual patient is mandatory.
capillary rarefaction; chronic kidney disease; hypoxia-inducible factor; neoangiogenesis; tubulointerstitial hypoxia
Tissue fibrosis and vascular disease are hallmarks of systemic sclerosis (SSc). Transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) is a key-player in fibroblast activation and tissue fibrosis in SSc. In contrast to fibrosis, evidence for a role of TGFβ in vascular disease of SSc is scarce. Using a transgenic mouse model with fibroblast-specific expression of a kinase-deficient TGFβ receptor type II, Derrett-Smith and colleagues demonstrate that aberrant TGFβ signaling in fibroblasts might result in activation of vascular smooth muscle cells and architectural changes of the vessel wall of the aorta.
TGF-β is the primary inducer of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins in scleroderma (systemic sclerosis, SSc). Previous studies indicate that in a subset of SSc fibroblasts TGF-β signaling is activated via elevated levels of activin receptor-like kinase (ALK) 1 and phosphorylated Smad1 (pSmad1). The goal of this study was to determine the role of endoglin/ALK1 in TGF-β/Smad1 signaling in SSc fibroblasts. In SSc fibroblasts, increased levels of endoglin correlated with high levels of pSmad1, collagen, and connective tissue growth factor (CCN2). Endoglin depletion via siRNA in SSc fibroblasts inhibited pSmad1 but did not affect pSmad2/3. Following endoglin depletion mRNA and protein levels of collagen and CCN2 were significantly decreased in SSc fibroblasts but remained unchanged in normal fibroblasts. ALK1 was expressed at similar levels in SSc and normal fibroblasts. Depletion of ALK1 resulted in inhibition of pSmad1 and a moderate but significant reduction of mRNA and protein levels of collagen and CCN2 in SSc fibroblasts. Furthermore, constitutively high levels of endoglin were found in complexes with ALK1 in SSc fibroblasts. Overexpression of constitutively active ALK1 (caALK1) in normal and SSc fibroblasts led to a moderate increase of collagen and CCN2. However, caALK1 potently induced endothelin 1 (ET-1) mRNA and protein levels in SSc fibroblasts. Additional experiments demonstrated that endoglin and ALK1 mediate TGF-β induction of ET-1 in SSc and normal fibroblasts. In conclusion, this study has revealed an important profibrotic role of endoglin in SSc fibroblasts. The endoglin/ALK1/Smad1 pathway could be a therapeutic target in patients with SSc if appropriately blocked.
A considerable amount of research time has been invested in studies aimed at elucidating pathogenic processes in systemic sclerosis (SSc). Despite this, major challenges for biomedical science remain, such as identification of the key factors that determine susceptibility to SSc, and elucidation of the precise nature of the initiating event that causes endothelial cell injury and ultimately brings about the biological cascade(s) that lead to the pathologic vascular changes. Involved factors are likely to include genetic perturbations, environmental cues, tissue injury, infection and hypoxia/oxidative stress. As important as determining the initiating events are the identification and characterization of key factors that are functionally important in driving vascular disease progression, because these factors are potential targets for therapeutic intervention. This article reviews the role of endothelin as an example of a pleiotropic mediator with effects on various aspects of SSc pathogenesis, such as inflammation, vasculopathy and tissue remodelling.
Scleroderma or systemic sclerosis (SSc) is a complex connective tissue disease characterized by fibrosis of skin and internal organs. Transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) plays a key role in the pathogenesis of SSc fibrosis. We have previously identified CD109 as a novel TGF-β co-receptor that inhibits TGF-β signaling. The aim of the present study was to determine the role of CD109 in regulating extracellular matrix (ECM) production in human SSc skin fibroblasts.
CD109 expression was determined in skin tissue and cultured skin fibroblasts of SSc patients and normal healthy subjects, using immunofluorescence, western blot and RT-PCR. The effect of CD109 on ECM synthesis was determined by blocking CD109 expression using CD109-specific siRNA or addition of recombinant CD109 protein, and analyzing the expression of ECM components by western blot.
The expression of CD109 proteinis markedly increased in SSc skin tissue in vivo and in SSc skin fibroblasts in vitro as compared to their normal counterparts. Importantly, both SSc and normal skin fibroblasts transfected with CD109-specific siRNA display increased fibronectin, collagen type I and CCN2 protein levels and enhanced Smad2/3 phosphorylation compared with control siRNA transfectants. Furthermore, addition of recombinant CD109 protein decreases TGF-β1-induced fibronectin, collagen type I and CCN2 levels in SSc and normal fibroblasts.
The upregulation of CD109 protein in SSc may represent an adaptation or consequence of aberrant TGF-β signaling in SSc. Our finding that CD109 is able to decrease excessive ECM production in SSc fibroblasts suggest that this molecule has potential therapeutic value for the treatment of SSc.
Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is a chronic autoimmune disorder characterized by progressive fibrosis of the skin and visceral tissues as well as a noninflammatory vasculopathy. Vascular disease in systemic sclerosis is a major cause of morbidity and mortality among nonpregnant patients with SSc and is even a bigger concern in the pregnant SSc patient, as the underlying vasculopathy may prevent the required hemodynamic changes necessary to support a growing pregnancy. Vascular manifestations including scleroderma renal crisis and pulmonary arterial hypertension should be considered relative contraindications against pregnancy due to the high associations of both maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality. In contrast, Raynaud's phenomenon may actually improve somewhat during pregnancy. Women with SSc who are considering a pregnancy or discover they are pregnant require evaluation for the presence and extent of underlying vasculopathy. In the absence of significant visceral vasculopathy, most women with SSc can expect to have reasonable pregnancy outcomes.
To examine whether the lack of sufficient neoangiogenesis in systemic sclerosis (SSc) is caused by a decrease in angiogenic factors and/or an increase in angiostatic factors, the potent proangiogenic molecules vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and basic fibroblast growth factor, and the angiostatic factor endostatin were determined in patients with SSc and in healthy controls. Forty-three patients with established SSc and nine patients with pre-SSc were included in the study. Serum levels of VEGF, basic fibroblast growth factor and endostatin were measured by ELISA. Age-matched and sex-matched healthy volunteers were used as controls. Highly significant differences were found in serum levels of VEGF between SSc patients and healthy controls, whereas no differences could be detected for endostatin and basic fibroblast growth factor. Significantly higher levels of VEGF were detected in patients with Scl-70 autoantibodies and in patients with diffuse SSc. Patients with pre-SSc and short disease duration showed significant higher levels of VEGF than healthy controls, indicating that elevated serum levels of VEGF are a feature of the earliest disease stages. Patients without fingertip ulcers were found to have higher levels of VEGF than patients with fingertip ulcers. Levels of endostatin were associated with the presence of giant capillaries in nailfold capillaroscopy, but not with any other clinical parameter. The results show that the concentration of VEGF is already increased in the serum of SSc patients at the earliest stages of the disease. VEGF appears to be protective against ischemic manifestations when concentrations of VEGF exceed a certain threshold level.
basic fibroblast growth factor; endostatin; fingertip ulcers; systemic sclerosis; vascular endothelial growth factor
There are no approved drugs for treating the fibrosis in scleroderma (systemic sclerosis, SSc). Myfibroblasts within connective tissue express the highly contractile protein α–smooth muscle actin (α–SMA) and are responsible for the excessive synthesis and remodeling of extracellular matrix (ECM) characterizing SSc. Drugs targeting myofibroblast differentiation, recruitment and activity are currently under consideration as anti-fibrotic treatments in SSc but thus far have principally focused on the transforming growth factor β (TGFβ), endothelin-1 (ET-1), connective tissue growth factor (CCN2/CTGF) and platelet derived growth factor (PDGF) pathways, which display substantial signaling crosstalk. Moreover, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR)γ also appears to act by intervening in TGFβ signaling. This review discusses these potential candidates for antifibrotic therapy in SSc.
PDGF; TGFβ; Endothelin; PPARγ
Interstitial lung disease in systemic sclerosis (SSc-ILD) is often an irreversible and progressive fibrosing process that now is the leading cause of scleroderma-related deaths. In this review we present our current understanding of the role played by coagulation and particularly by thrombin in autoimmune-mediated tissue injury and fibrosis, mainly as it relates to SSc-ILD.
We used PubMed to search for articles published up to October 2010 for keywords referring to autoimmunity, coagulation, pulmonary fibrosis, and scleroderma.
SSc-ILD is an autoimmune disease associated with lymphocyte activation and release of various cytokines and growth factors. The production of autoantibodies is a central feature in SSc. Activation of the coagulation cascade with release of thrombin is 1 of the earliest events following tissue injury. Thrombin contributes to autoimmune responses by activating of pathogenic Th2 lymphocyte profile in SSc. Thrombin also modulates tissue repair responses, stimulates transformation of epithelial cells, endothelial cells, and fibroblasts into myofibroblast phenotype, and induces secretion of several pro-immune and profibrotic factors, which serve as antigens for pathogenic autoantibodies production in SSc-ILD.
The identification of links between autoimmunity and coagulation would provide new insights into the pathogenesis of pulmonary fibrosis associated with autoimmune diseases and further acknowledge the importance of thrombin in the development of SSc-ILD.
thrombin; scleroderma; pulmonary fibrosis; coagulation; autoimmunity
Microvascular injury, oxidative stress, and impaired angiogenesis are prominent features of systemic sclerosis (SSc). We compared serum markers of these phenomena at baseline and after treatment with nifedipine in SSc patients. Forty successive SSc patients were compared with 20 matched healthy subjects. All SSc patients stopped taking calcium-channel blockers 72 hours before measurements. Twenty SSc patients were also examined after 14 days of treatment with nifedipine (60 mg/day). Quantitative ELISA was used to measure the serum concentrations of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), soluble VEGF receptor 1 (sVEGFR-1), soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 (sVCAM-1), carbonyl residues, and advanced oxidation protein products (AOPP). The median concentrations of VEGF, sVEGFR-1, sVCAM-1, carbonyl residues, and AOPP were significantly higher in SSc patients than in healthy subjects at baseline. A correlation was found between VEGF concentration and carbonyl residue concentration (r = 0.43; P = 0.007). Nifedipine treatment led to a significant decrease in concentrations of sVCAM-1, carbonyl residues, and AOPP but did not affect concentrations of VEGF and sVEGFR-1. Nifedipine treatment ameliorated endothelium injury in patients with SSc, as shown by the concentrations of adhesion molecules and oxidative damage markers. The fact that VEGF and sVEGFR-1 concentrations were not changed whereas oxidative stress was ameliorated by nifedipine is consistent with the hypothesis that VEGF signalling is impaired in SSc. However, more experimental evidence is needed to determine whether the VEGF pathway is intrinsically defective in SSc.
nifedipine; oxidative stress; sVCAM-1; systemic sclerosis; VEGF
Endothelial cells constitute an essential integrator of factors that effect blood vessel remodeling induced by chronic hypoxia. We hypothesized that vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) may participate in the lung response to acute and to chronic hypoxia. We found that ex vivo perfusion of isolated lungs under hypoxic conditions (when compared with normoxia) caused an increase in lung tissue mRNA of VEGF and of the VEGF receptors KDR/Flk and Flt. Chronic hypobaric hypoxia also increased lung tissue mRNA levels of VEGF, KDR/Flk, and Flt and the amount of VEGF protein. In situ hybridization studies demonstrated increased VEGF and KDR/flk hybridization signals in lungs from chronically hypoxic rats. Since endotoxin treatment of rats decreased lung VEGF mRNA, we postulated that nitric oxide (NO) or an NO-related metabolite might be involved in lung VEGF gene expression. Indeed, sodium nitroprusside, a NO donor, decreased and L-NAME (N-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester), an inhibitor of NO-synthesis, increased both VEGF and VEGF receptor transcripts. We conclude that VEGF in the isolated perfused lung acts as an early gene in response to hypoxia and that lung VEGF and VEGF receptor mRNA levels are influenced by hypoxia and NO-dependent mechanisms.
Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is an autoimmune disease characterized by fibrosis of the skin and internal organs. Dysregulation of the immune system, including the Th1/Th2 cytokine balance, is central to the pathogenesis of SSc. This study was undertaken to investigate the hypothesis that single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in TBX21 and STAT4, both of which are critical transcription factors that regulate the Th1/Th2 balance, are associated with SSc susceptibility.
We tested SNPs in TBX21 and STAT4 for association with SSc in 2 independent cohorts, the SSc Registry cohort (880 SSc cases and 507 controls) and the University of Texas SSc cohort (522 cases and 531 controls). Additional white control genotypes were obtained from public repositories. We also investigated for gene–gene interactions. Plasma cytokines and whole blood gene expression profiles were examined to determine functional effects of these SNPs.
Multiple SNPs in TBX21 and STAT4 were found to be associated with SSc. In a combined analysis of 902 SSc patients and 4,745 controls, TT genotyping of the TBX21 rs11650354 variant revealed a recessive pattern for disease susceptibility (Pcorr = 1.4 × 10−15, odds ratio 3.37, 95% confidence interval 2.4–4.6). In an analysis of 1,039 SSc patients and 3,322 controls, the A allele of the STAT4 variant rs11889341 was associated with increased SSc susceptibility in a dominant pattern (Pcorr = 2.4 × 10−5, odds ratio 1.29, 95% confidence interval 1.2–1.5). Furthermore, we identified gene–gene interaction among the TBX21 and STAT4 variants, such that the STAT4 genotype increased the risk of SSc only in the TBX21 CC genotype group. SSc patients carrying the TBX21 CC genotype had higher interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor α levels, and those with the TT genotype had elevated IL-2, IL-5, IL-4, and IL-13 (Th2) levels, compared with controls. Whole blood expression profiles revealed dysregulation of type I interferon pathways in the CC group and T cell pathways in the TT group of the TBX21 SNP.
The present results, from studies of 2 independent cohorts, indicate that SNPs in TBX21 and STAT4 contribute uniquely and interactively to SSc susceptibility, leading to altered cytokine balance and immune dysregulation.
Progressive fibrosis in systemic sclerosis (SSc) is linked to aberrant transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) signaling. Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPAR-gamma) blocks fibrogenic TGF-beta responses in vitro and in vivo. Reduced expression and function of PPAR-gamma in patients with SSc may contribute to progression of fibrosis. Here we evaluated the levels of adiponectin, a sensitive and specific index of PPAR-gamma activity, as a potential fibrogenic biomarker in SSc.
Adiponectin levels were determined in the sera of 129 patients with SSc and 86 healthy controls, and serial determinations were performed in 27 patients. Levels of adiponectin mRNA in skin biopsies from SSc patients were assessed in an expression profiling microarray dataset. Regulation of adiponectin gene expression in explanted human subcutaneous preadipocytes and fibroblasts was examined by real-time quantitative PCR.
Patients with diffuse cutaneous SSc had reduced serum adiponectin levels. A significant inverse correlation between adiponectin levels and the modified Rodnan skin score was observed. In longitudinal studies changes in serum adiponectin levels were inversely correlated with changes in skin fibrosis. Skin biopsies from a subset of SSc patients showed reduced adiponectin mRNA expression which was inversely correlated with the skin score. An agonist ligand of PPAR-gamma potently induced adiponectin expression in explanted mesenchymal cells in vitro.
Levels of adiponectin, reflecting PPAR-gamma activity, are correlated with skin fibrosis and might have potential utility as a biomarker in SSc.
Capillary rarefaction is a hallmark of fibrotic diseases and results in reduced blood perfusion and oxygen delivery. In the kidney, tubulointerstitial fibrosis, which leads to the destruction of renal tissue and the irreversible loss of kidney function, is associated with hypoxia and the activation of Hypoxia-Inducible-Factor (HIF) signaling. HIF-1 and HIF-2 are basic-helix-loop-helix transcription factors that allow cells to survive in a low oxygen environment by regulating energy metabolism, vascular remodeling, erythropoiesis, cellular proliferation and apoptosis. Recent studies suggest that HIF activation promotes epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) and renal fibrogenesis. These findings raise the possibility that the spectrum of HIF activated biological responses to hypoxic stress may differ under conditions of acute and chronic hypoxia. Here we discuss the role of HIF signaling in the pathogenesis and progression of chronic kidney disease.
hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF); hypoxia; chronic kidney disease; fibrosis; epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT); epithelial cell plasticity; lysyl oxidases
Importance of the field
Systemic-sclerosis (SSc) is an uncommon autoimmune disease with variable degrees of fibroproliferation in blood vessels and certain organs of the body. Presently, there is no cure for SSc. The purpose of this article is to review the current literature regarding pathogenesis and treatment of complications of SSc.
Areas covered in this review
All available articles regarding research related to SSc pathogenesis and treatment listed in the PubMed.gov database were searched, relevant articles were then reviewed and used as sources of information for this review.
What the reader will gain
This review attempts for the reader to highlight some current thought regarding mechanisms of SSc pathogenesis and how autoimmunity relates to vascular changes and fibrogenesis of the disease plus provide a review of results of completed clinical trials and current on-going clinical trials that address organ specific or global therapies for this disease which can aid physicians who provide medical care for patients with SSc.
Take home message
SSc is a complex autoimmune disease, the pathogenesis of which although not completely understood is under active study, and new insights into pathogenesis are continuously being discovered. Although there is no effective disease modifying treatment for patients with SSc, quality of life, morbidity and mortality can be improved by using targeted therapy directed at affecting the consequences of damage to lungs, blood vessels, kidneys and the gastrointestinal tract. Innovative approaches to treating SSc are under intense investigation.
Systemic sclerosis; Autoimmunity; Fibrosis; Scleroderma; Platelets
Repeated blood donors manifest clinical, subclinical, and biochemical signs of iron deficiency anemia, have significantly higher erythropoietin and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) concentrations, and decreased tissue oxygen saturation, oxygenated tissue hemoglobin, and regional cerebral oxygen saturation. Erythropoietin and VEGF are potent retinal angiogenic factors which may initiate and promote the retinal angiogenesis process independently or simultaneously. Increases in circulating levels of erythropoietin and VEGF are proportionate to the levels of hematocrit, hypoxemia, and tissue hypoxia. It is suggested that higher erythropoietin production following iron deficiency anemia-induced chronic hypoxemia/ hypoxia may, hypothetically, enhance the risk of retinal angiogenesis and/or neovascularization, possibly by inducing hypoxia inducible factor-1 alpha, which consequently upregulates genes stimulating angiogenesis, resulting in formation of a new vasculature, possibly by modulation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 signaling in the retina. Implications of this hypothesis cover erythropoietin doping, chronic hypoxia, and hypoxemic situations, such as angiogenesis-related cardiac and pulmonary diseases.
repeated blood donation; erythropoietin; retinal neovascularization; vascular endothelial growth factor; hypoxia
Scleroderma (systemic sclerosis; SSc) is a clinically heterogeneous and often lethal acquired disorder of the connective tissue that is characterized by vascular, immune/inflammatory and fibrotic manifestations. Tissue fibrosis is the main cause of morbidity and mortality in SSc and an unmet medical challenge, mostly because of our limited understanding of the molecular factors and signalling events that trigger and sustain disease progression. Recent evidence has correlated skin fibrosis in SSc with stabilization of proto-oncogene Ha-Ras secondary to auto-antibody stimulation of reactive oxygen species production. The goal of the present study was to explore the molecular connection between Ha-Ras stabilization and collagen I production, the main read-out of fibrogenesis, in a primary dermal fibroblast culture system that replicates the early stages of disease progression in SSc.
Forced expression of proto-oncogene Ha-Ras in dermal fibroblasts demonstrated the promotion of an immediate collagen I up-regulation, as evidenced by enhanced activity of a collagen I-driven luciferase reporter plasmid and increased accumulation of endogenous collagen I proteins. Moreover, normal levels of Tgfβ transcripts and active transforming growth factor-beta (TGFβ) implied Ha-Ras stimulation of the canonical Smad2/3 signalling pathway independently of TGFβ production or activation. Heightened Smad2/3 signalling was furthermore correlated with greater Smad3 phosphorylation and Smad3 protein accumulation, suggesting that Ha-Ras may target both Smad2/3 activation and turnover. Additional in vitro evidence excluded a contribution of ERK1/2 signalling to improper Smad3 activity and collagen I production in cells that constitutively express Ha-Ras.
Our study shows for the first time that constitutively elevated Ha-Ras protein levels can directly stimulate Smad2/3 signalling and collagen I accumulation independently of TGFβ neo-synthesis and activation. This finding therefore implicates the Ha-Ras pathway with the early onset of fibrosis in SSc and implicitly identifies new therapeutic targets in SSc.
The role of the vascular microenvironment in the pathogenesis Systemic Sclerosis (SSc) is appreciated clinically as Raynaud's syndrome with capillary nail bed change. This manifestation of vasculopathy is used diagnostically in both limited and diffuse cutaneous subsets of SSc, and is thought to precede fibrosis. The degree of subsequent fibrosis may also be determined by the vascular microenvironment. This paper describes why the vascular microenvironment might determine the degree of end-organ damage that occurs in SSc, with a focus on vascular cell senescence, endothelial progenitor cells (EPC) including multipotential mesenchymal stem cells (MSC), pericytes, and angiogenic monocytes. An explanation of the role of EPC, pericytes, and angiogenic monocytes is important to an understanding of SSc pathogenesis. An evolving understanding of the vascular microenvironment in SSc may allow directed treatment.