Effect of nitric oxide on the differentiation of fibroblasts into myofibroblasts in the Peyronie's fibrotic plaque and in its rat model

Nitric Oxide. 2002 Dec;7(4):262-76. doi: 10.1016/s1089-8603(02)00124-6.


The myofibroblast shares phenotypic features of both fibroblasts and smooth muscle cells. It plays a critical role in collagen deposition and wound healing and disappears by apoptosis when the wound is closed. Its abnormal persistence leads to hypertrophic scar formation and other fibrotic conditions. Myofibroblasts are present in the fibrotic plaque of the tunica albuginea (TA) of the penis in men with Peyronie's disease (PD), a localized fibrosis that is accompanied by a spontaneous induction of the inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), also observed in the TGFbeta1-elicited, PD-like lesion in the rat model. iNOS expression counteracts fibrosis, by producing nitric oxide (NO) that reduces collagen deposition in part by neutralization of profibrotic reactive oxygen species. In this study we investigated whether fibroblast differentiation into myofibroblasts is enhanced in the human and rat PD-like plaque and in cultures of human tissue fibroblasts. We also examined whether NO reduces this cell differentiation and collagen synthesis. The myofibroblast content in the fibroblast population was measured by quantitative immunohistochemistry as the ratio between alpha-smooth muscle actin (ASMA; myofibroblast marker) and vimentin (general fibroblast marker) levels. We found that myofibroblast content was considerably increased in the human and TGFbeta1-induced rat plaques as compared to control TA. Inhibition of iNOS activity by chronic administration of L-iminoethyl-L-lysine to rats with TGFbeta1-induced TA lesion increased myofibroblast abundance and collagen I synthesis measured in plaque and TA homogenates from animals injected with a collagen I promoter construct driving the expression of beta-galactosidase. Fibroblast differentiation into myofibroblasts occurred with passage in the cell cultures from the human PD plaque, but was minimal in cultures from the TA. Induction of iNOS in PD and TA cultures with a cytokine cocktail and a NO donor, S-nitroso-N-acetyl penicillamine (SNAP), was detected by immunohistochemistry. Both treatments reduced the total number of cells and the number of ASMA positive cells, whereas only SNAP decreased collagen I immunostaining. These results support the hypotheses that myofibroblasts play a role in the development of the PD plaque and that the antifibrotic effects of NO may be mediated at least in part by the reduction of myofibroblast abundance and lead to a reduction in collagen I synthesis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Actins / biosynthesis
  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects*
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Collagen Type I / biosynthesis
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Enzyme Induction / drug effects
  • Fibroblasts / drug effects*
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Fibroblasts / pathology
  • Fibrosis / pathology
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Muscle, Smooth / metabolism
  • Myoblasts / drug effects
  • Myoblasts / metabolism
  • Myoblasts / pathology
  • Nitric Oxide / pharmacology*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / metabolism
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II
  • Penile Induration / pathology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344
  • Vimentin / biosynthesis


  • Actins
  • Collagen Type I
  • Vimentin
  • Nitric Oxide
  • NOS2 protein, human
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II
  • Nos2 protein, rat