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1.  Serotonin paracrine signaling in tissue fibrosis☆☆☆ 
Biochimica et Biophysica Acta  2013;1832(7):905-910.
The molecule serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine or 5-HT) is involved in numerous biological processes both inside and outside of the central nervous system. 5-HT signals through 5-HT receptors and it is the diversity of these receptors and their subtypes that give rise to the varied physiological responses. It is clear that platelet derived serotonin is critical for normal wound healing in multiple organs including, liver, lung heart and skin. 5-HT stimulates both vasoconstriction and vasodilation, influences inflammatory responses and promotes formation of a temporary scar which acts as a scaffold for normal tissue to be restored. However, in situations of chronic injury or damage 5-HT signaling can have deleterious effects and promote aberrant wound healing resulting in tissue fibrosis and impaired organ regeneration. This review highlights the diverse actions of serotonin signaling in the pathogenesis of fibrotic disease and explores how modulating the activity of specific 5-HT receptors, in particular the 5-HT2 subclass could have the potential to limit fibrosis and restore tissue regeneration. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Fibrosis: Translation of basic research to human disease.
► Introduction, overview of serotonin signaling and biology ► The role of serotonin in wound healing, regeneration and fibrosis ► Future perspectives
PMCID: PMC3793867  PMID: 23032152
Fibrosis; Serotonin
2.  Intrinsic defence capacity and therapeutic potential of natriuretic peptides in pulmonary hypertension associated with lung fibrosis 
British Journal of Pharmacology  2014;171(14):3463-3475.
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a progressive fibro-proliferative disorder refractory to current therapy commonly complicated by the development of pulmonary hypertension (PH); the associated morbidity and mortality are substantial. Natriuretic peptides possess vasodilator and anti-fibrotic actions, and pharmacological augmentation of their bioactivity ameliorates renal and myocardial fibrosis. Here, we investigated whether natriuretic peptides possess an intrinsic cytoprotective function preventing the development of pulmonary fibrosis and associated PH, and whether therapeutics targeting natriuretic peptide signalling demonstrate efficacy in this life-threatening disorder.
Pulmonary haemodynamics, right ventricular function and markers of lung fibrosis were determined in wild-type (WT) and natriuretic peptide receptor (NPR)-A knockout (KO) mice exposed to bleomycin (1 mg·kg−1). Human myofibroblast differentiation was studied in vitro.
Exacerbated cardiac, vascular and fibrotic pathology was observed in NPR-A KO animals, compared with WT mice, exposed to bleomycin. Treatment with a drug combination that raised circulating natriuretic peptide levels (ecadotril) and potentiated natriuretic peptide-dependent signalling (sildenafil) reduced indices of disease progression, whether administered prophylactically or to animals with established lung disease. This positive pharmacodynamic effect was diminished in NPR-A KO mice. Atrial natriuretic peptide and sildenafil synergistically reduced TGFβ-induced human myofibroblast differentiation, a key driver of remodelling in IPF patients.
These data highlight an endogenous host-defence capacity of natriuretic peptides in lung fibrosis and PH. A combination of ecadotril and sildenafil reversed the pulmonary haemodynamic aberrations and remodelling that characterize the disease, advocating therapeutic manipulation of natriuretic peptide bioactivity in patients with IPF.
PMCID: PMC4105933  PMID: 24641440
natriuretic peptide; neutral endopeptidase; guanylyl cyclase; cyclic GMP; pulmonary hypertension; phosphodiesterase; bleomycin
3.  Intrinsic defence capacity and therapeutic potential of natriuretic peptides in pulmonary hypertension associated with lung fibrosis 
British Journal of Pharmacology  2014;171(14):3463-3475.
Background and Purpose
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a progressive fibro-proliferative disorder refractory to current therapy commonly complicated by the development of pulmonary hypertension (PH); the associated morbidity and mortality are substantial. Natriuretic peptides possess vasodilator and anti-fibrotic actions, and pharmacological augmentation of their bioactivity ameliorates renal and myocardial fibrosis. Here, we investigated whether natriuretic peptides possess an intrinsic cytoprotective function preventing the development of pulmonary fibrosis and associated PH, and whether therapeutics targeting natriuretic peptide signalling demonstrate efficacy in this life-threatening disorder.
Experimental Approach
Pulmonary haemodynamics, right ventricular function and markers of lung fibrosis were determined in wild-type (WT) and natriuretic peptide receptor (NPR)-A knockout (KO) mice exposed to bleomycin (1 mg·kg−1). Human myofibroblast differentiation was studied in vitro.
Key Results
Exacerbated cardiac, vascular and fibrotic pathology was observed in NPR-A KO animals, compared with WT mice, exposed to bleomycin. Treatment with a drug combination that raised circulating natriuretic peptide levels (ecadotril) and potentiated natriuretic peptide-dependent signalling (sildenafil) reduced indices of disease progression, whether administered prophylactically or to animals with established lung disease. This positive pharmacodynamic effect was diminished in NPR-A KO mice. Atrial natriuretic peptide and sildenafil synergistically reduced TGFβ-induced human myofibroblast differentiation, a key driver of remodelling in IPF patients.
Conclusions and Implications
These data highlight an endogenous host-defence capacity of natriuretic peptides in lung fibrosis and PH. A combination of ecadotril and sildenafil reversed the pulmonary haemodynamic aberrations and remodelling that characterize the disease, advocating therapeutic manipulation of natriuretic peptide bioactivity in patients with IPF.
PMCID: PMC4105933  PMID: 24641440
natriuretic peptide; neutral endopeptidase; guanylyl cyclase; cyclic GMP; pulmonary hypertension; phosphodiesterase; bleomycin
4.  Renal Cell Protection of Erythropoietin beyond Correcting The Anemia in Chronic Kidney Disease Patients 
Cell Journal (Yakhteh)  2013;15(4):378-380.
Currently many patients with chronic renal failure have profited from the use of erythropoietin to correct anemia (1,2). In chronic kidney disease, anemia is believed to be a surrogate index for tissue hypoxia that continues preexisting renal tissue injury (1-3). Erythropoietin is an essential glycoprotein that accelerates red blood cell maturation from erythroid progenitors and facilitates erythropoiesis. It is a 30.4 kD glycoprotein and class I cytokine containing 165 amino acids (3,4). Approximately 90% of systemic erythropoietin in adults is produced by peritubular interstitial fibroblasts in the renal cortex and outer medulla of the kidney (3-5). A feedback mechanism involving oxygen delivery to the tissues seems to regulate erythropoietin production. Hypoxia-inducible factor regulates transcription of the erythropoietin gene in the kidney, which determines erythropoietin synthesis (3-5). Erythropoietin is an essential glycoprotein that accelerates red blood cell maturation from erythroid progenitors and mediates erythropoiesis in the bone marrow (4-6). Kidney fibrosis is the last common pathway in chronic renal failure irrespective of the initial etiology (5,6). Constant inflammatory cell infiltration and pericyte-myofibroblast transition lead to renal fibrosis and insufficiency which result in decreased production of erythropoietin (4-7). Thus far, therapeutic efforts to treat patients with chronic renal failure by administering erythropoietin have been made only to correct anemia and putative hypoxic tissue damage. The introduction of recombinant human erythropoietin has marked a significant advance in the management of anemia associated with chronic renal failure (6-9). With an increasing number of patients with chronic renal failure receiving erythropoietin treatment, emerging evidence suggests that erythropoietin not only has an erythropoietic function, but also has renoprotective potential. In fact, in recent years, the additional non-erythropoietic tissue/ organ protective efficacy of erythropoietin has become evident, especially in the kidneys (5-12). Various investigations have shown the kidney protective property of erythropoietin in acute kidney injury. In a study to evaluate the ameliorative effects of erythropoietin on renal tubular cells, we studied 40 male rats. We found that erythropoietin was able to prevent the increase in serum creatinine and blood urea nitrogen. Furthermore, co-administration of gentamicin and erythropoietin effectively reduced kidney tissue damage compared to the control group. However, the protective properties of erythropoietin were also evident in our study. When the drug was applied after gentamicin- induced tubular damage we were able to show that the drug was still effective after tissue injury onset. This indicates that erythropoietin may have curative effects in addition to its preventive properties (13). Thus, erythropoietin is a promising kidney protective agent to prevent, ameliorate or attenuate tubular damage induced by gentamicin or other nephrotoxic agents that act in a similar manner to this drug (14-17). Recent studies have elucidated the cellular mechanism involved in kidney erythropoietin production and the consequent events that lead to kidney fibrosis, showing that they are closely related to each other (18-20). In contrast to previous findings, fibroblasts originating from damaged renal tubular epithelial cells do not have an important role in kidney fibrosis, but renal erythropoietin- producing cells, stemming from neural crests, have been shown to trans-differentiate into myofibroblasts after long-term exposure to inflammatory situations related to kidney fibrosis. In fact, almost all myofibroblasts expressing α-smooth muscle actin originate from renal erythropoietin-producing cells, which are naturally peritubular interstitial fibroblastic cells expressing neural cell marker genes but not α-smooth muscle actin. Macrophages and myofibroblasts are responsible for fibrosis in the renal tissue. Macrophages could be differentiated to phenotype M1 (classically activated) or M2 (wound healing) according to the distinctive cytokine production and behavior that follows different routes of activation (6,8,21,22). While erythropoietin can disengage macrophages by stopping the activity of NF-κB, it is possible that one of the mechanisms explaining the antifibrotic effects of erythropoietin in chronic kidney disease is in vivo macrophage regulation (20-25). These important findings stipulate the missing link in chronic renal failure between anemia and kidney fibrosis (6,8,21,22). In patients with chronic kidney disease, anemia due to reduced erythropoietin production eventually appears (1,4,5). Recombinant human erythropoietin has been used for more than 20 years in chronic kidney disease to recompense for reduced endogenous erythropoietin production (1,4,5,25). Recent investigations have pointed out that erythropoietin administration improves kidney functions in chronic kidney disease either directly or indirectly (17-24). The therapeutic benefits of erythropoietin beyond the correction of anemia are still questioned. However, it is notable that various pieces of evidence simply reflect the pleiotropic effects of erythropoietinon on the central nervous, cardiovascular system and on the kidney (18,20,25). In brief, clinical evidence shows the kidney protective potential of erythropoietin in patients with chronic renal failure, however, additional clinical investigations are crucial to outline when to start erythropoietin treatment and what is the optimal erythropoietin dosage for slowing disease progression in patients with chronic renal failure. The application of erythropoietin treatment for renoprotection may need to be earlier than that for erythropoiesis, while it is possible that the erythropoietin attenuation of renal fibrosis through macrophage regulation and endothelial cell protection operates through other unidentified mechanisms. While agents restoring the initial function of renal erythropoietin-producing cells could delay kidney fibrosis, further laboratory studies are necessary to clarify the cellular target of erythropoietin in the kidney and for developing a novel erythropoietin derivative or mimetic for kidney protection.
PMCID: PMC3866543  PMID: 24381864
Erythropoietin; Erythropoiesis
5.  Egr-1: new conductor for the tissue repair orchestra directs harmony (regeneration) or cacophony (fibrosis) 
The Journal of pathology  2012;229(2):286-297.
Fibroblasts and myofibroblasts are the key effector cells executing physiologic tissue repair leading to regeneration on one hand, and pathological fibrogenesis leading to chronic fibrosing conditions on the other. Recent studies identify the multifunctional transcription factor Early Growth Response-1(Egr-1) as an important mediator of fibroblast activation triggered by diverse stimuli. Egr-1 has potent stimulatory effects on fibrotic gene expression, and aberrant Egr-1 expression or function is associated with animal models of fibrosis and human fibrotic disorders including emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension and systemic sclerosis. Pharmacological suppression or genetic targeting of Egr-1 blocks fibrotic responses in vitro and ameliorates experimental fibrosis in the skin and lung. In contrast, Egr-1 appear to acts as a negative regulator of hepatic fibrosis in mouse models, suggesting a context-dependent role in fibrosis. The Egr-1-binding protein Nab2 is an endogenous inhibitor of Egr-1-mediated signaling, and abrogates the stimulation of fibrotic responses induced by transforming growth factor-ß (TGF-ß). Moreover, mice deficient in Nab2 show excessive collagen accumulation in the skin. These observations highlight a previously unsuspected fundamental physiologic function for the Egr-1/Nab2 signaling axis in regulating fibrogenesis, and suggest that Egr-1 may be a potential novel therapeutic target in human diseases complicated by fibrosis. This review summarizes recent advances in understanding the regulation and complex functional role of Egr-1 and its related proteins and inhibitors in pathological fibrosis.
PMCID: PMC3965177  PMID: 23132749
Egr-1; Nab2; TGF-ß; fibrosis; scleroderma; fibroblast; myofibroblast; p300; c-Abl
6.  MMP-12 Deficiency Attenuates Angiotensin II-Induced Vascular Injury, M2 Macrophage Accumulation, and Skin and Heart Fibrosis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e109763.
MMP-12, a macrophage-secreted elastase, is elevated in fibrotic diseases, including systemic sclerosis (SSc) and correlates with vasculopathy and fibrosis. The goal of this study was to investigate the role of MMP-12 in cardiac and cutaneous fibrosis induced by angiotensin II infusion. Ang II-induced heart and skin fibrosis was accompanied by a marked increase of vascular injury markers, including vWF, Thrombospondin-1 (TSP-1) and MMP-12, as well as increased number of PDGFRβ+ cells. Furthermore Ang II infusion led to an accumulation of macrophages (Mac3+) in the skin and in the perivascular and interstitial fibrotic regions of the heart. However, alternatively activated (Arg 1+) macrophages were mainly present in the Ang II infused mice and were localized to the perivascular heart regions and to the skin, but were not detected in the interstitial heart regions. Elevated expression of MMP-12 was primarily found in macrophages and endothelial cells (CD31+) cells, but MMP-12 was not expressed in the collagen producing cells. MMP-12 deficient mice (MMP12KO) showed markedly reduced expression of vWF, TSP1, and PDGFRβ around vessels and attenuation of dermal fibrosis, as well as the perivascular fibrosis in the heart. However, MMP-12 deficiency did not affect interstitial heart fibrosis, suggesting a heterogeneous nature of the fibrotic response in the heart. Furthermore, MMP-12 deficiency almost completely prevented accumulation of Arg 1+ cells, whereas the number of Mac3+ cells was partially reduced. Moreover production of profibrotic mediators such as PDGFBB, TGFβ1 and pSMAD2 in the skin and perivascular regions of the heart was also inhibited. Together, the results of this study show a close correlation between vascular injury markers, Arg 1+ macrophage accumulation and fibrosis and suggest an important role of MMP-12 in regulating these processes.
PMCID: PMC4193823  PMID: 25302498
7.  Serine proteases, inhibitors and receptors in renal fibrosis 
Thrombosis and haemostasis  2009;101(4):656-664.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is estimated to affect one in eight adults. Their kidney function progressively deteriorates as inflammatory and fibrotic processes damage nephrons. New therapies to prevent renal functional decline must build on basic research studies that identify critical cellular and molecular mediators. Plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1), a potent fibrosis-promoting glycoprotein, is one promising candidate. Absent from normal kidneys, PAI-1 is frequently expressed in injured kidneys. Studies in genetically engineered mice have demonstrated its potency as a pro-fibrotic molecule. Somewhat surprising, its ability to inhibit serine protease activity does not appear to be its primary pro-fibrotic effect in CKD. Both tissue-type plasminogen activator and plasminogen deficiency significantly reduced renal fibrosis severity after ureteral obstruction, while genetic urokinase (uPA) deficiency had no effect. PAI-1 expression is associated with enhanced recruitment of key cellular effectors of renal fibrosis – interstitial macrophages and myofibroblasts. The ability of PAI-1 to promote cell migration involves interactions with the low-density lipoprotein receptor-associate protein-1 and also complex interactions with uPA bound to its receptor (uPAR) and several leukocyte and matrix integrins that associate with uPAR as co-receptors. uPAR is expressed by several cell types in damaged kidneys, and studies in uPAR-deficient mice have shown that its serves a protective role. uPAR mediates additional anti-fibrotic effects - it interacts with specific co-receptors to degrade PAI-1 and extracellular collagens, and soluble uPAR has leukocyte chemoattractant properties. Molecular pathways activated by serine proteases and their inhibitor, PAI-1, are promising targets for future anti-fibrotic therapeutic agents.
PMCID: PMC3136815  PMID: 19350108
plasminogen activator inhibitor-1; urokinase; fibrosis; urokinase receptor (uPAR)
8.  A synthetic PPAR-γ agonist triterpenoid ameliorates experimental fibrosis: PPAR-γ-independent suppression of fibrotic responses 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2013;73(2):446-454.
Persistent fibroblast activation initiated by transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) is a fundamental event in the pathogenesis of systemic sclerosis (SSc), and its pharmacological inhibition represents a potential therapeutic strategy. The nuclear receptor peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma (PPAR-γ) exerts potent fibrotic activities. The synthetic triterpenoid oleanane 2-cyano-3,12-dioxoolean-1,9-dien-28-oic (CDDO) is a PPAR-γ agonist with potential effects on TGF-β signaling and dermal fibrosis.
To examine the modulation of fibrogenesis by CDDO in explanted fibroblasts, skin organ cultures and murine models of scleroderma.
Material and methods
The effects of CDDO on experimental fibrosis induced by bleomycin injection or by overexpression of type I constitutively active TGF-β receptor was evaluated. Modulation of fibrotic gene expression was examined in human skin organ cultures. To delineate the mechanisms underlying the anti-fibrotic effects of CDDO, explanted skin fibroblasts cultured in 2-dimensional monolayers or in 3-dimensional full-thickness human skin equivelants were studied.
CDDO significantly ameliorated dermal fibrosis in two complementary mouse models of scleroderma, as well as in human skin organ cultures and in 3-dimensional human skin equivalents. In 2-dimensional monolayer cultures, CDDO abrogated fibrogenic responses in explanted normal human skin fibroblasts. These CDDO effects occurred via disruption of Smad-dependent transcription and were associated with inhibition of Akt activation. In scleroderma fibroblasts, CDDO attenuated collagen synthesis. Remarkably, the anti-fibrotic effects of CDDO were independent of PPAR-γ.
The PPAR-γ agonist triterpenoid CDDO attenuates fibrogenesis by antagonistically targeting canonical TGF-β/Smad and Akt signaling in a PPAR-γ-independent manner. These findings identify this synthetic triterpenoid as a potential new therapy for the control of fibrosis.
PMCID: PMC4028127  PMID: 23515440
CDDO; triterpenoid; fibrosis; PPAR-γ; TGF-β; fibroblast; murine scleroderma
9.  Curcumin attenuates angiogenesis in liver fibrosis and inhibits angiogenic properties of hepatic stellate cells 
Hepatic fibrosis is concomitant with sinusoidal pathological angiogenesis, which has been highlighted as novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of chronic liver disease. Our prior studies have demonstrated that curcumin has potent antifibrotic activity, but the mechanisms remain to be elucidated. The current work demonstrated that curcumin ameliorated fibrotic injury and sinusoidal angiogenesis in rat liver with fibrosis caused by carbon tetrachloride. Curcumin reduced the expression of a number of angiogenic markers in fibrotic liver. Experiments in vitro showed that the viability and vascularization of rat liver sinusoidal endothelial cells and rat aortic ring angiogenesis were not impaired by curcumin. These results indicated that hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) that are characterized as liver-specific pericytes could be potential target cells for curcumin. Further investigations showed that curcumin inhibited VEGF expression in HSCs associated with disrupting platelet-derived growth factor-β receptor (PDGF-βR)/ERK and mTOR pathways. HSC motility and vascularization were also suppressed by curcumin associated with blocking PDGF-βR/focal adhesion kinase/RhoA cascade. Gain- or loss-of-function analyses revealed that activation of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ (PPAR-γ) was required for curcumin to inhibit angiogenic properties of HSCs. We concluded that curcumin attenuated sinusoidal angiogenesis in liver fibrosis possibly by targeting HSCs via a PPAR-γ activation-dependent mechanism. PPAR-γ could be a target molecule for reducing pathological angiogenesis during liver fibrosis.
PMCID: PMC4124023  PMID: 24779927
liver fibrosis; angiogenesis; hepatic stellate cell; curcumin; peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ; VEGF
10.  Activation of canonical Wnt signalling is required for TGF-β-mediated fibrosis 
Nature Communications  2012;3:735-.
The transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) signalling pathway is a key mediator of fibroblast activation that drives the aberrant synthesis of extracellular matrix in fibrotic diseases. Here we demonstrate a novel link between transforming growth factor-β and the canonical Wnt pathway. TGF-β stimulates canonical Wnt signalling in a p38-dependent manner by decreasing the expression of the Wnt antagonist Dickkopf-1. Tissue samples from human fibrotic diseases show enhanced expression of Wnt proteins and decreased expression of Dickkopf-1. Activation of the canonical Wnt pathway stimulates fibroblasts in vitro and induces fibrosis in vivo. Transgenic overexpression of Dickkopf-1 ameliorates skin fibrosis induced by constitutively active TGF-β receptor type I signalling and also prevents fibrosis in other TGF-β-dependent animal models. These findings demonstrate that canonical Wnt signalling is necessary for TGF-β-mediated fibrosis and highlight a key role for the interaction of both pathways in the pathogenesis of fibrotic diseases.
Aberrant activation of the TGF-β pathway leads to fibrotic disease. Distler and colleagues show that TGF-β-mediated fibrosis requires the decrease of Dickkopf-1, an antagonist of canonical Wnt signalling, suggesting that the two pathways interact for the manifestation of this disease.
PMCID: PMC3316881  PMID: 22415826
11.  Suramin Alleviates Glomerular Injury and Inflammation in the Remnant Kidney 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e36194.
Recently, we demonstrated that suramin, a compound that inhibits the interaction of multiple cytokines/growth factors with their receptors, inhibits activation and proliferation of renal interstitial fibroblasts, and attenuates the development of renal interstitial fibrosis in the murine model of unilateral ureteral obstruction (UUO). However, it remains unclear whether suramin can alleviate glomerular and vascular lesions, which are not typical pathological changes in the UUO model. So we tested the efficacy of suramin in the remnant kidney after 5/6 nephrectomy, a model characterized by the slow development of glomerulosclerosis, vascular sclerosis, tubulointerstitial fibrosis and renal inflammation, mimicking human disease.
5/6 of normal renal mass was surgically ablated in male rats. On the second week after surgery, rats were randomly divided into suramin treatment and non-treatment groups. Suramin was given at 10 mg/kg once per week for two weeks. In the remnant kidney of mice receiving suramin, glomerulosclerosis and vascular sclerosis as well as inflammation were ameliorated. Suramin also attenuated tubular expression of two chemokines, monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 and regulated upon expression normal T cell expressed and secreted (RANTES). After renal mass ablation, several intracellular molecules associated with renal fibrosis, including NF-kappaB p65, Smad-3, signal transducer and activator of transcription-3 and extracellular regulated kinase 1/2, are phosphorylated; suramin treatment inhibited their phosphorylation. Futhermore, suramin abolished renal ablation-induced phosphorylation of epidermal growth factor receptor and platelet derived growth factor receptor, two receptors that mediate renal fibrosis.
Conclusions and Significance
These findings suggest that suramin attenuates glomerular and vascular injury and reduces inflammatory responses by suppression of multiple growth factor receptor-mediated profibrotic signaling pathways. Therefore, suramin may be a useful drug in preventing the fibrosis and sclerosis that characterizes progression of chronic kidney disease.
PMCID: PMC3338607  PMID: 22558380
12.  Bosentan reverses the pro-fibrotic phenotype of systemic sclerosis dermal fibroblasts via increasing DNA binding ability of transcription factor Fli1 
Although the pathogenesis of systemic sclerosis (SSc) still remains unknown, recent studies have demonstrated that endothelins are deeply involved in the developmental process of fibrosis and vasculopathy associated with SSc, and a dual endothelin receptor antagonist, bosentan, has a potential to serve as a disease modifying drug for this disorder. Importantly, endothelin-1 (ET-1) exerts a pro-fibrotic effect on normal dermal fibroblasts and bosentan reverses the pro-fibrotic phenotype of SSc dermal fibroblasts. The purpose of this study was to clarify the details of molecular mechanisms underlying the effects of ET-1 and bosentan on dermal fibroblasts, which have not been well studied.
The mRNA levels of target genes and the expression and phosphorylation levels of target proteins were determined by reverse transcription real-time PCR and immunoblotting, respectively. Promoter assays were performed using a sequential deletion of human α2 (I) collagen (COL1A2) promoter. DNA affinity precipitation and chromatin immunoprecipitation were employed to evaluate the DNA binding ability of Fli1. Fli1 protein levels in murine skin were evaluated by immunostaining.
In normal fibroblasts, ET-1 activated c-Abl and protein kinase C (PKC)-δ and induced Fli1 phosphorylation at threonine 312, leading to the decreased DNA binding of Fli1, a potent repressor of the COL1A2 gene, and the increase in type I collagen expression. On the other hand, bosentan reduced the expression of c-Abl and PKC-δ, the nuclear localization of PKC-δ, and Fli1 phosphorylation, resulting in the increased DNA binding of Fli1 and the suppression of type I collagen expression in SSc fibroblasts. In bleomycin-treated mice, bosentan prevented dermal fibrosis and increased Fli1 expression in lesional dermal fibroblasts.
ET-1 exerts a potent pro-fibrotic effect on normal fibroblasts by activating “c-Abl - PKC-δ - Fli1” pathway. Bosentan reverses the pro-fibrotic phenotype of SSc fibroblasts and prevents the development of dermal fibrosis in bleomycin-treated mice by blocking this signaling pathway. Although the efficacy of bosentan for dermal and pulmonary fibrosis is limited in SSc, the present observation definitely provides us with a useful clue to further explore the potential of the upcoming new dual endothelin receptor antagonists as disease modifying drugs for SSc.
PMCID: PMC4060196  PMID: 24708674
13.  Human platelets inhibit liver fibrosis in severe combined immunodeficiency mice 
AIM: To investigate the role of human platelets in liver fibrosis.
METHODS: Severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) mice were administered CCl4 and either phosphate-buffered saline (PBS group) or human platelet transfusions (hPLT group). Concentrations of hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), matrix metallopeptidases (MMP)-9, and transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) in the liver tissue were compared between the PBS and the hPLT groups by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and Western blotting. The effects of a human platelet transfusion on liver fibrosis included the fibrotic area, hydroxyproline content, and α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) expression, which were evaluated by picrosirius red staining, ELISA, and immunohistochemical staining using an anti-mouse α-SMA antibody, respectively. Phosphorylations of mesenchymal-epithelial transition factor (Met) and SMAD3, downstream signals of HGF and TGF-β, were compared between the two groups by Western blotting and were quantified using densitometry. Hepatocyte apoptosis was evaluated by terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labeling. Furthermore, the accumulation of human platelets in the liver 2 h after platelet transfusion was compared between normal and fibrotic livers by immunohistochemical staining using an anti-human CD41 antibody.
RESULTS: The fibrotic area and hydroxyproline content in the liver were both significantly lower in the hPLT group when compared to the PBS group (fibrotic area, 1.7% ± 0.6% vs 2.5% ± 0.6%, P = 0.03; hydroxyproline content, 121 ± 26 ng/g liver vs 156 ± 47 ng/g liver, P = 0.04). There was less α-smooth muscle actin staining in the hPLT group than in the PBS group (0.5% ± 0.1% vs 0.8% ± 0.3%, P = 0.02). Hepatic expression levels of mouse HGF and MMP-9 were significantly higher in the hPLT group than in the PBS group (HGF, 109 ± 13 ng/g liver vs 88 ± 22 ng/g liver, P = 0.03; MMP-9, 113% ± 7%/GAPDH vs 92% ± 11%/GAPDH, P = 0.04). In contrast, the concentration of mouse TGF-β in the liver tissue was significantly lower in the hPLT group than in the PBS group (22 ± 5 ng/g liver vs 39 ± 6 ng/g liver, P = 0.02). Phosphorylation of Met was more prevalent in the hPLT group than in the PBS group (37% ± 4%/GAPDH vs 20% ± 8%/GAPDH, P = 0.03). Phosphorylation of SMAD3 was weaker in the hPLT group than in the PBS group (60% ± 12%/GAPDH vs 84% ± 12%/GAPDH, P = 0.1), although this difference was not significant. Furthermore, a lower rate of hepatocyte apoptosis was observed in the hPLT group than in the PBS group (5.9% ± 1.7% vs 2.9% ± 2.1%, P = 0.02). Significant human platelet accumulation was observed in the fibrotic liver tissues, whereas few platelets accumulated in the normal liver.
CONCLUSION: Human platelets inhibit liver fibrosis in SCID mice. Increased concentration of HGF in the liver suppresses hepatic stellate cell activation, induces MMPs, and inhibits hepatocyte apoptosis.
PMCID: PMC3752558  PMID: 23983427
Human platelet; Liver fibrosis; Hepatocyte apoptosis; Hepatocyte growth factor; Transforming growth factor-β; Matrix metallopeptidases
14.  Role of Semaphorin 7a signaling in TGF-β1 induced lung fibrosis and scleroderma-related interstitial lung disease 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2011;63(8):2484-2494.
Semaphorin (Sema) 7a regulates TGF- β1 induced fibrosis. Using a murine model of pulmonary fibrosis in which an inducible, bioactive form of the human TGF- β1 gene is overexpressed in the lung, we tested the hypothesis that Sema-7a exerts its pro-fibrotic effects in part by promoting the tissue accumulation of CD45+ fibrocytes.
Fibrosis and fibrocytes were evaluated in TGF- β1 transgenic mice in which the Sema-7a locus had been disrupted. The effect of replacement or deletion of Sema-7a on bone marrow derived cells was ascertained using bone marrow transplantation. The role of the Sema-7a receptor β1 integrin was assessed using neutralizing antibodies. The applicability of these findings to TGF-β1-driven fibrosis in humans was examined in patients with scleroderma-related interstitial lung disease.
The appearance of fibrocytes in the lungs in TGF- β1 transgenic mice requires Sema-7a. Replacement of Sema-7a in bone marrow derived cells restores lung fibrosis and fibrocytes. Immunoneutralization of β1 integrin reduces pulmonary fibrocytes and fibrosis. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells from patients with scleroderma-related interstitial lung disease show increased mRNA for Sema-7a and the β1 integrin, with Sema-7a located on collagen producing fibrocytes and CD19+ lymphocytes. Peripheral blood fibrocyte outgrowth is enhanced in these patients. Stimulation of normal human peripheral blood mononuclear cells with recombinant Sema-7a enhances fibrocyte differentiation; these effects are attenuated by β1 integrin neutralization.
Interventions that reduce Sema-7a expression or prevent the Sema-7a - β1 integrin interaction may be ameliorative in TGF- β1-driven or fibrocyte-associated autoimmune fibroses.
PMCID: PMC3651701  PMID: 21484765
15.  Matrix regulation of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis: the role of enzymes 
Repairing damaged tissues is an essential homeostatic mechanism that enables clearance of dead or damaged cells after injury, and the maintenance of tissue integrity. However, exaggeration of this process in the lung can lead to the development of fibrotic scar tissue. This is characterized by excessive accumulation of extracellular matrix (ECM) components such as fibronectin, proteoglycans, hyaluronic acid, and interstitial collagens. After tissue injury, or a breakdown of tissue integrity, a cascade of events unfolds to maintain normal tissue homeostasis. Inflammatory mediators are released from injured epithelium, leading to both platelet activation and inflammatory cell migration. Inflammatory cells are capable of releasing multiple pro-inflammatory and fibrogenic mediators such as transforming growth factor (TGF)β and interleukin (IL)-13, which can trigger myofibroblast proliferation and recruitment. The myofibroblast population is also expanded as a result of epithelial cells undergoing epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and of the activation of resident fibroblasts, leading to ECM deposition and tissue remodeling. In the healthy lung, wound healing then proceeds to restore the normal architecture of the lung; however, fibrosis can develop when the wound is severe, the tissue injury persists, or the repair process becomes dysregulated. Understanding the processes regulating aberrant wound healing and the matrix in the chronic fibrotic lung disease idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), is key to identifying new treatments for this chronic debilitating disease. This review focuses primarily on the emerging role of enzymes in the lungs of patients with IPF. Elevated expression of a number of enzymes that can directly modulate the ECM has been reported, and recent data indicates that modulating the activity of these enzymes can have a downstream effect on fibrotic tissue remodeling.
PMCID: PMC4176485  PMID: 24279676
Fibrosis; Matrix; Chronic remodeling; IPF
16.  Knockout of Endothelial Cell-Derived Endothelin-1 Attenuates Skin Fibrosis but Accelerates Cutaneous Wound Healing 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e97972.
Endothelin (ET)-1 is known for the most potent vasoconstrictive peptide that is released mainly from endothelial cells. Several studies have reported ET-1 signaling is involved in the process of wound healing or fibrosis as well as vasodilation. However, little is known about the role of ET-1 in these processes. To clarify its mechanism, we compared skin fibrogenesis and wound repair between vascular endothelial cell-specific ET-1 knockout mice and their wild-type littermates. Bleomycin-injected fibrotic skin of the knockout mice showed significantly decreased skin thickness and collagen content compared to that of wild-type mice, indicating that bleomycin-induced skin fibrosis is attenuated in the knockout mice. The mRNA levels of transforming growth factor (TGF)-β were decreased in the bleomycin-treated skin of ET-1 knockout mice. On the other hand, skin wound healing was accelerated in ET-1 knockout mice, which was indicated by earlier granulation tissue reduction and re-epithelialization in these mice. The mRNA levels of TGF-β, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α and connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) were reduced in the wound of ET-1 knockout mice. In endothelial ET-1 knockout mouse, the expression of TNF-α, CTGF and TGF-β was down-regulated. Bosentan, an antagonist of dual ET receptors, is known to attenuate skin fibrosis and accelerate wound healing in systemic sclerosis, and such contradictory effect may be mediated by above molecules. The endothelial cell-derived ET-1 is the potent therapeutic target in fibrosis or wound healing, and investigations of the overall regulatory mechanisms of these pathological conditions by ET-1 may lead to a new therapeutic approach.
PMCID: PMC4031171  PMID: 24853267
17.  Targeted Recombinant Fusion Proteins of IFNγ and Mimetic IFNγ with PDGFβR Bicyclic Peptide Inhibits Liver Fibrogenesis In Vivo 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e89878.
Hepatic stellate cells (HSCs), following transdifferentiation to myofibroblasts plays a key role in liver fibrosis. Therefore, attempts to attenuate this myofibroblastic phenotype would be a promising therapeutic approach. Interferon gamma (IFNγ) is a potent anti-fibrotic cytokine, but its pleiotropic receptor expression leading to severe adverse effects has limited its clinical application. Since, activated HSC express high-level of platelet derived growth factor beta receptor (PDGFβR), we investigated the potential of PDGFβR-specific targeting of IFNγ and its signaling peptide that lacks IFNγR binding site (mimetic IFNγ or mimIFNγ) in liver fibrosis. We prepared DNA constructs expressing IFNγ, mimIFNγ or BiPPB (PDGFβR-specific bicyclic peptide)-IFNγ, BiPPB-mimIFNγ fusion proteins. Both chimeric proteins alongwith IFNγ and mimIFNγ were produced in E.coli. The expressed proteins were purified and analyzed for PDGFβR-specific binding and in vitro effects. Subsequently, these recombinant proteins were investigated for the liver uptake (pSTAT1α signaling pathway), for anti-fibrotic effects and adverse effects (platelet counts) in CCl4-induced liver fibrogenesis in mice. The purified HSC-targeted IFNγ and mimIFNγ fusion proteins showed PDGFβR-specific binding and significantly reduced TGFβ-induced collagen-I expression in human HSC (LX2 cells), while mouse IFNγ and mimIFNγ did not show any effect. Conversely, mouse IFNγ and BiPPB-IFNγ induced activation and dose-dependent nitric oxide release in mouse macrophages (express IFNγR while lack PDGFβR), which was not observed with mimIFNγ and BiPPB-mimIFNγ, due to the lack of IFNγR binding sites. In vivo, targeted BiPPB-IFNγ and BiPPB-mimIFNγ significantly activated intrahepatic IFNγ-signaling pathway compared to IFNγ and mimIFNγ suggesting increased liver accumulation. Furthermore, the targeted fusion proteins ameliorated liver fibrogenesis in mice by significantly reducing collagen and α-SMA expression and potentiating collagen degradation. IFNγ also induced reduction in fibrogenesis but showed significant decrease in platelet counts, which was restored with targeted proteins. These results suggest that these rationally designed proteins can be further developed as novel anti-fibrotic therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC3933682  PMID: 24587093
18.  Serotonin stimulates platelet receptor shedding by tumor necrosis factor-alpha-converting enzyme (ADAM17) 
Peripheral serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) is transported by platelets and released upon stimulation. In the platelet cytoplasm, 5-HT is transamidated to small GTPases, promoting α-granule release and primary hemostasis.
We hypothesized that 5-HT could also stimulate platelet receptor shedding after binding to the membrane 5-HT receptor (5-HT2AR).
Western blot and flow cytometry were used to determine levels of the adhesion receptor glycoprotein (GP)Ibα on platelets or its shed fragment glycocalicin in plasma and serum from wild-type mice, Tph1−/− mice lacking peripheral 5-HT, and mice lacking functional tumor necrosis factor-alpha-converting enzyme (TACE, ADAM17). Flow chamber experiments and intravital microscopy were used to examine the adhesive properties of platelets after stimulation of 5-HT2AR.
Glycocalicin was significantly reduced in Tph1−/− plasma and serum. In isolated platelets, 5-HT induced shedding of GPIbα, which was increased to 60% when 5-HT uptake was inhibited by the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor fluoxetine. Specific 5-HT2AR agonism and antagonism suggested activation of this receptor. The shedding could not be induced in TACEΔZn/ΔZn platelets, suggesting that activated TACE mediated the shedding of GPIbα. Intracellular signaling involved phosphorylation of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase rather than G-protein signaling. 5-HT2AR stimulation decreased platelet adhesion to collagen-bound von Willebrand factor under arterial shear (1500 s−1) and incorporation into FeCl3-induced thrombi in mesenteric arterioles.
Stimulation of 5-HT2AR on platelets induces TACE-mediated shedding of GPIbα, the key adhesion molecule under high shear conditions. Our observations demonstrate a new pathway through which 5-HT could modulate cardiovascular disease.
PMCID: PMC3244876  PMID: 19426283
5-HT2AR; GPIbα; platelet; serotonin; TACE
19.  Modulation of hepatic fibrosis by c-Jun-N-terminal kinase inhibition 
Gastroenterology  2009;138(1):347-359.
Background & Aims
c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) is activated by multiple profibrogenic mediators; JNK activation occurs during toxic, metabolic, and autoimmune liver injury. However, its role in hepatic fibrogenesis is unknown.
JNK phosphorylation was detected by immunoblot analysis and confocal immunofluorescent microscopy in fibrotic livers from mice after bile duct ligation (BDL) or CCl4 administration and in liver samples from patients with chronic hepatitis C and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. Fibrogenesis was investigated in mice given the JNK inhibitor SP600125 and in JNK1- and JNK2-deficient mice following BDL or CCl4 administration. Hepatic stellate cell (HSC) activation was determined in primary mouse HSCs incubated with pan-JNK inhibitors SP600125 and VIII.
JNK phosphorylation was strongly increased in livers of mice following BDL or CCl4 administration as well as in human fibrotic livers, occurring predominantly in myofibroblasts. In vitro, pan-JNK inhibitors prevented transforming growth factor (TGF)β-, platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF)-, and angiotensin II-induced murine HSC activation and decreased PDGF and TGFβ signaling in human HSCs. In vivo, pan-JNK inhibition did not affect liver injury but significantly reduced fibrosis after BDL or CCl4. JNK1-deficient mice had decreased fibrosis after BDL or CCl4 whereas JNK2-deficient mice displayed increased fibrosis after BDL but fibrosis was not changed after CCl4. Moreover, patients with chronic hepatitis C who displayed decreased fibrosis in response to the angiotensin receptor type 1 blocker losartan showed decreased JNK phosphorylation.
JNK is involved in HSC activation and fibrogenesis and represents a potential target for antifibrotic treatment approaches.
PMCID: PMC2988578  PMID: 19782079
20.  Caveolin-1, TGF-β receptor internalization, and the pathogenesis of systemic sclerosis 
Current opinion in rheumatology  2008;20(6):713-719.
To review the scientific literature supporting the participation of caveolin-1 in the pathogenesis of tissue fibrosis and that modulation of the caveolin-1 pathway may represent a novel treatment for systemic sclerosis (SSc) and other fibrotic diseases.
Recent Findings
Caveolin-1 plays an important role in the regulation of transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) signaling owing to its participation in TGF-β receptor (TβR) internalization. TβR internalized through caveolin-1 lipid rafts undergoes rapid degradation, effectively decreasing TGF-β signaling. Studies have shown that caveolin-1 knockdown in vitro markedly increased collagen gene expression in normal human lung fibroblasts. Caveolin-1 was reduced in affected SSc lungs and skin and in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) lung tissues and fibroblasts. Increasing caveolin-1 expression markedly improved bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis. Restoration of caveolin bioavailability employing penetratin, a cell-permeable peptide carrier for a bioactive caveolin-1 fragment abrogated TGF-β activation of cultured human dermal fibroblasts. Systemic administration of penetratin-caveolin-1 peptide to mice with bleomycin-induced lung fibrosis reduced fibrosis.
Caveolin-1 plays an important role in the regulation of TGF-β signaling and participates in the pathogenesis of SSc and IPF. Restoration of caveolin function employing active caveolin-1 fragments coupled to cell-permeable carrier peptides may represent a novel approach for their treatment.
PMCID: PMC2732362  PMID: 18949888
Caveolin-1; TGF-β; fibrosis; collagen; systemic sclerosis; idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
21.  IL-13 Induces Skin Fibrosis in Atopic Dermatitis by Thymic Stromal Lymphopoietin 
Skin fibrotic remodeling is a major feature in human atopic dermatitis (AD). Inflammation and tissue fibrosis are common consequences of Th2 responses. Elevated IL-13 and thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) have been found in the AD skin lesions. Fibrocytes can be recruited to inflamed tissues to promote wound healing and fibrosis. Dermal transgenic expression of IL-13 causes an AD-like phenotype with fibrosis and increased TSLP. However, the role of TSLP in fibrotic remodeling is unknown. In this study, we investigated the role of TSLP and fibrocytes in the generation of IL-13–induced skin fibrosis. In AD lesion, cessation of IL-13 transgene expression resulted in reduced skin inflammation but with no effect on further progression of fibrosis. This was accompanied by markedly increased CD34+/procollagen 1+ fibrocytes. Furthermore, fibrocytes express TSLP receptor (TSLPR), and TSLP directly promotes PBMC-derived fibrocytes to produce collagen. Neutralization of TSLP or genetic deletion of TSLPR in IL-13 transgenic mice resulted in a significant reduction in fibrocytes and in skin fibrosis. Furthermore, reduction of fibrosis by depletion of TSLP was independent of IL-13. Interestingly, the number of fibrocytes was highly increased in the skin samples of AD patients. These data indicate that the progression of skin fibrosis in IL-13–induced AD occurs via TSLP/TSLPR-dependent but IL-13–independent novel mechanisms by promoting fibrocyte functions.
PMCID: PMC3399513  PMID: 21576506
22.  Leptospira Interrogans Induces Fibrosis in the Mouse Kidney through Inos-Dependent, TLR- and NLR-Independent Signaling Pathways 
Leptospira (L.) interrogans are bacteria responsible for a worldwide reemerging zoonosis. Rodents carry L. interrogans asymptomatically in their kidneys and excrete bacteria in the urine, contaminating the environment. Humans get infected through skin contact and develop a mild or severe leptospirosis that may lead to renal failure and fibrosis. L. interrogans provoke an interstitial nephritis, but the induction of fibrosis caused by L. interrogans has not been studied in murine models. Innate immune receptors from the TLR and NLR families have recently been shown to play a role in the development and progression of tissue fibrosis in the lung, liver and kidneys under different pathophysiological situations. We recently showed that TLR2, TLR4, and NLRP3 receptors were crucial in the defense against leptospirosis. Moreover, infection of a human cell line with L. interrogans was shown to induce TLR2-dependent production of fibronectin, a component of the extracellular matrix. Therefore, we thought to assess the presence of renal fibrosis in L. interrogans infected mice and to analyze the contribution of some innate immune pathways in this process.
Methodology/principal findings
Here, we characterized by immunohistochemical studies and quantitative real-time PCR, a model of Leptospira-infected C57BL/6J mice, with chronic carriage of L. interrogans inducing mild renal fibrosis. Using various strains of transgenic mice, we determined that the renal infiltrates of T cells and, unexpectedly, TLR and NLR receptors, are not required to generate Leptospira-induced renal fibrosis. We also show that the iNOS enzyme, known to play a role in Leptospira-induced interstitial nephritis, also plays a role in the induction of renal fibrosis.
To our knowledge, this work provides the first experimental murine model of sustained renal fibrosis induced by a chronic bacterial infection that may be peculiar, since it does not rely on TLR or NLR receptors. This model may prove useful to test future therapeutic strategies to combat Leptospira-induced renal lesions.
Author Summary
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease transmitted by asymptomatic rodents to humans. The symptoms may be mild, or severe with kidney failure. Renal fibrosis, occurring during inflammatory situations, is characterized by the pathological accumulation of extra-cellular matrix components and can compromise the kidney functions of patients with leptospirosis. Recent research revealed that both innate and adaptive immune responses are involved in the establishment of fibrosis, in several organs and in different pathophysiological situations. In the present study, we characterized a mouse model of chronic infection with Leptospira that provokes mild renal fibrosis. We show that fibrogenesis requires the presence of live Leptospira in the kidney and that B and T cells from the adaptive immune response do not participate in the induction of renal fibrosis. Unexpectedly, we also found that innate immune receptors, TLRs and NLRs, are not involved in the Leptospira-induced fibrosis. Finally, we show that the enzyme responsible for NO production, iNOS, known to participate in renal inflammatory lesions induced by Leptospira, is also involved in renal fibrosis. Our work provides a novel mouse model to study fibrosis occurring due to leptospirosis.
PMCID: PMC3907306  PMID: 24498450
23.  A Purpose-Synthesised Anti-Fibrotic Agent Attenuates Experimental Kidney Diseases in the Rat 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e47160.
Background and Purpose
Locally-active growth factors have been implicated in the pathogenesis of many diseases in which organ fibrosis is a characteristic feature. In the setting of chronic kidney disease (CKD), two such pro-fibrotic factors, transforming growth factor-ß (TGF-ß) and platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) have emerged as lead potential targets for intervention. Given the incomplete organ protection afforded by blocking the actions of TGF-ß or PDGF individually, we sought to determine whether an agent that inhibited the actions of both may have broader effects in ameliorating the key structural and functional abnormalities of CKD.
Experimental Approach
Accordingly, we studied the effects of a recently described, small molecule anti-fibrotic drug, 3-methoxy-4-propargyloxycinnamoyl anthranilate (FT011, Fibrotech Therapeutics, Australia), which should have these effects.
Key Results
In the in vitro setting, FT011 inhibited both TGF-ß1 and PDGF-BB induced collagen production as well as PDGF-BB-mediated mesangial proliferation. Consistent with these in vitro actions, when studied in a robust model of non-diabetic kidney disease, the 5/6 nephrectomised rat, FT011 attenuated the decline in GFR, proteinuria and glomerulosclerosis (p<0.05 for all). Similarly, in the streptozotocin-diabetic Ren-2 rat, a model of advanced diabetic nephropathy, FT011 reduced albuminuria, glomerulosclerosis and tubulointerstitial fibrosis.
Conclusions and Implications
Together these studies suggest that broadly antagonising growth factor actions, including those of TGF-ß1 and PDGF-BB, has the potential to protect the kidney from progressive injury in both the diabetic and non-diabetic settings.
PMCID: PMC3468513  PMID: 23071743
24.  Withaferin-A Reduces Type I Collagen Expression In Vitro and Inhibits Development of Myocardial Fibrosis In Vivo 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e42989.
Type I collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. Its excessive synthesis results in fibrosis of various organs. Fibrosis is a major medical problem without an existing cure. Excessive synthesis of type I collagen in fibrosis is primarily due to stabilization of collagen mRNAs. We recently reported that intermediate filaments composed of vimentin regulate collagen synthesis by stabilizing collagen mRNAs. Vimentin is a primary target of Withaferin-A (WF-A). Therefore, we hypothesized that WF-A may reduce type I collagen production by disrupting vimentin filaments and decreasing the stability of collagen mRNAs. This study is to determine if WF-A exhibits anti-fibrotic properties in vitro and in vivo and to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of its action. In lung, skin and heart fibroblasts WF-A disrupted vimentin filaments at concentrations of 0.5–1.5 µM and reduced 3 fold the half-lives of collagen α1(I) and α2(I) mRNAs and protein expression. In addition, WF-A inhibited TGF-β1 induced phosphorylation of TGF-β1 receptor I, Smad3 phosphorylation and transcription of collagen genes. WF-A also inhibited in vitro activation of primary hepatic stellate cells and decreased their type I collagen expression. In mice, administration of 4 mg/kg WF-A daily for 2 weeks reduced isoproterenol-induced myocardial fibrosis by 50%. Our findings provide strong evidence that Withaferin-A could act as an anti-fibrotic compound against fibroproliferative diseases, including, but not limited to, cardiac interstitial fibrosis.
PMCID: PMC3416765  PMID: 22900077
25.  Protease Activated Receptor-1 Deficiency Diminishes Bleomycin-Induced Skin Fibrosis 
Molecular Medicine  2014;20(1):410-416.
Accumulating evidence shows that protease-activated receptor-1 (PAR-1) plays an important role in the development of fibrosis, including lung fibrosis. However, whether PAR-1 also plays a role in the development of skin fibrosis remains elusive. The aim of this study was to determine the role of PAR-1 in the development of skin fibrosis. To explore possible mechanisms by which PAR-1 could play a role, human dermal fibroblasts and keratinocytes were stimulated with specific PAR-1 agonists or antagonists. To investigate the role of PAR-1 in skin fibrosis, we subjected wild-type and PAR-1-deficient mice to a model of bleomycin-induced skin fibrosis. PAR-1 activation leads to increased proliferation and extra cellular matrix (ECM) production, but not migration of human dermal fibroblasts (HDF) in vitro. Moreover, transforming growth factor (TGF)-β production was increased in keratinocytes upon PAR-1 activation, but not in HDF. The loss of PAR-1 in vivo significantly attenuated bleomycin-induced skin fibrosis. The bleomycin-induced increase in dermal thickness and ECM production was reduced significantly in PAR-1-deficient mice compared with wild-type mice. Moreover, TGF-β expression and the number of proliferating fibroblasts were reduced in PAR-1-deficient mice although the difference did not reach statistical significance. This study demonstrates that PAR-1 contributes to the development of skin fibrosis and we suggest that PAR-1 potentiates the fibrotic response mainly by inducing fibroblast proliferation and ECM production.
PMCID: PMC4212012  PMID: 24842054

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