Impaired wound healing in mouse models of diabetes is mediated by TNF-alpha dysregulation and associated with enhanced activation of forkhead box O1 (FOXO1)

Diabetologia. 2010 Feb;53(2):378-88. doi: 10.1007/s00125-009-1529-y. Epub 2009 Nov 10.


Aims/hypothesis: The role of TNF-alpha in impaired wound healing in diabetes was examined by focusing on fibroblasts.

Methods: Small excisional wounds were created in the db/db mice model of type 2 diabetes and normoglycaemic littermates, and in a streptozotocin-induced type 1 diabetes mouse model and control mice. Fibroblast apoptosis was measured by the TUNEL assay, proliferation by detection of proliferating cell nuclear antigen, and forkhead box O1 (FOXO1) activity by DNA binding and nuclear translocation. TNF-alpha was specifically inhibited by pegsunercept.

Results: Diabetic wounds had increased TNF-alpha, fibroblast apoptosis, caspase-3/7 activity and activation of the pro-apoptotic transcription factor FOXO1, and decreased proliferating cell nuclear antigen positive fibroblasts (p < 0.05). TNF-alpha inhibition improved healing in the diabetic mice and increased fibroblast density. This may be explained by a decrease in fibroblast apoptosis and increased proliferation when TNF-alpha was blocked (p < 0.05). Although decreased fibroblast proliferation and enhanced FOXO1 activity were investigated in type 2 diabetes, they may also be implicated in type 1 diabetes. In vitro, TNF-alpha enhanced mRNA levels of gene sets related to apoptosis and Akt and p53 but not mitochondrial or cell-cycle pathways. FOXO1 small interfering RNA reduced gene sets that regulate apoptosis, Akt, mitochondrial and cell-cycle pathways. TNF-alpha also increased genes involved in inflammation, cytokine, Toll-like receptor and nuclear factor-kB pathways, which were significantly reduced by FOXO1 knockdown.

Conclusions/interpretation: These studies indicate that TNF-alpha dysregulation in diabetic wounds impairs healing, which may involve enhanced fibroblast apoptosis and decreased proliferation. In vitro, TNF-alpha induced gene sets through FOXO1 that regulate a number of pathways that could influence inflammation and apoptosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Caspase 3 / metabolism
  • Caspase 7 / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / physiopathology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Forkhead Box Protein O1
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / physiology*
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Inflammation / genetics
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Mice
  • NF-kappa B / genetics
  • NF-kappa B / physiology
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / genetics*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / physiology
  • Wound Healing / physiology*
  • Wounds and Injuries / physiopathology*


  • Forkhead Box Protein O1
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Foxo1 protein, mouse
  • NF-kappa B
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspase 7