Objective: Monocyte chemoattractant protein 1 (MCP-1; CCL2) has been implicated in the pathogenesis of fibrotic diseases and is up-regulated in patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc). The aim of the present study was to examine the mechanisms by which MCP-1 mediates its profibrotic effects in the setting of SSc.
Methods: The expression of receptors for MCP-1 on dermal fibroblasts was analyzed by real-time polymerase chain reaction and fluorescence-activated cell sorting. The ability of extracellular matrix proteins to bind and release MCP-1 was quantified by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Th0 cells were isolated using a magnetic-activated cell sorting system and were stimulated twice in the presence of MCP-1. The synthesis of collagen was measured using the Sircol collagen assay kit.
Results: The glycosaminoglycan chondroitin sulfate, but not fibronectin or collagens, bound and released MCP-1 in a time-dependent manner. MCP-1 that was released from chondroitin sulfate induced the differentiation of interleukin-4 (IL-4)-producing T cells in a dose-dependent manner. In turn, dermal fibroblasts from patients with SSc expressed IL-4 receptor, and stimulation with IL-4 significantly increased the production of collagen in dermal fibroblasts. In contrast, CCR2a and CCR2b, as well as D6 and US28 (other potential receptors of MCP-1), were not detectable in SSc and normal fibroblasts, and their expression was not induced by platelet-derived growth factor, IL-1beta, or IL-4. In addition, MCP-1 had no direct effects on collagen production by fibroblasts.
Conclusion: MCP-1 has no direct effects on dermal fibroblasts but contributes to fibrosis in patients with SSc by inducing the differentiation of IL-4-producing T cells. Because MCP-1 has both proinflammatory and profibrotic effects, pharmacologic targeting of MCP-1 could be a promising therapeutic approach in SSc.