Objective: Chemokines are important mediators in the chemoattraction of leukocytes to sites of inflammation. This study investigated the potential contribution of systemic sclerosis (SSc) fibroblasts to chemokine production and its potential relevance to the pathogenesis of SSc.
Methods: The expression of messenger RNA (mRNA) for different C-C and C-X-C chemokines by SSc and normal fibroblasts was studied by RNase protection assay. Monocyte chemoattractant protein 1 (MCP-1) protein production was analyzed by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. The chemotactic effect of fibroblast-derived MCP-1 on monocytic cells was analyzed in a transmigration assay. Nuclear factor kappaB (NF-kappaB) and activator protein 1 (AP-1) activation in fibroblasts was studied by electromobility shift analysis. MCP-1 expression in SSc skin sections was studied by immunohistochemistry.
Results: Among all chemokine genes studied, only MCP-1 and interleukin-8 mRNA were expressed by nonstimulated normal and SSc fibroblasts. SSc fibroblasts displayed increased constitutive expression of MCP-1 mRNA and protein and showed a blunted response to oxidative stress. Increased MCP-1 production was associated with higher chemotactic activity for monocytic cells. Increased NF-kappaB or AP-1 activation was not responsible for the constitutive overexpression of MCP-1 by SSc fibroblasts. In SSc skin sections, MCP-1 expression was detected in fibroblasts, keratinocytes, and mononuclear cells, whereas it was undetectable in normal skin.
Conclusion: SSc fibroblasts display a specific pattern of chemokine gene expression that is characterized by constitutively increased and abnormally regulated expression of MCP-1 in vitro. MCP-1 is also expressed in lesional skin and can participate in the pathogenesis of SSc.