Myofibroblasts. I. Paracrine cells important in health and disease

Am J Physiol. 1999 Jul;277(1):C1-9. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.1999.277.1.C1.


Myofibroblasts are a unique group of smooth-muscle-like fibroblasts that have a similar appearance and function regardless of their tissue of residence. Through the secretion of inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, growth factors, both lipid and gaseous inflammatory mediators, as well as extracellular matrix proteins and proteases, they play an important role in organogenesis and oncogenesis, inflammation, repair, and fibrosis in most organs and tissues. Platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) and stem cell factor are two secreted proteins responsible for differentiating myofibroblasts from embryological stem cells. These and other growth factors cause proliferation of myofibroblasts, and myofibroblast secretion of extracellular matrix (ECM) molecules and various cytokines and growth factors causes mobility, proliferation, and differentiation of epithelial or parenchymal cells. Repeated cycles of injury and repair lead to organ or tissue fibrosis through secretion of ECM by the myofibroblasts. Transforming growth factor-beta and the PDGF family of growth factors are the key factors in the fibrotic response. Because of their ubiquitous presence in all tissues, myofibroblasts play important roles in various organ diseases and perhaps in multisystem diseases as well.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Division / physiology
  • Cell Movement / physiology
  • Disease
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Fibroblasts / physiology*
  • Fibrosis / physiopathology
  • Health
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Smooth / cytology
  • Muscle, Smooth / physiology*
  • Terminology as Topic
  • Wound Healing / physiology