Objective: To characterize the pathways induced by transforming growth factor beta1 (TGFbeta1) that lead to the expression of endothelin 1 (ET-1) in human dermal fibroblasts, and to study the effects of TGFbeta1 and ET-1 on the acquisition of a profibrotic phenotype and assess the contribution of the TGFbeta1/ET-1 axis to skin wound healing and fibrosis in vivo.
Methods: The mechanism of induction of ET-1 expression by TGFbeta1 and its effect on the expression of alpha-smooth muscle actin and type I collagen were studied in human dermal fibroblasts, in experiments involving the TGFbeta receptor inhibitor GW788388 and the ET receptor antagonist bosentan, by real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, immunofluorescence, Western blotting, and promoter/reporter transient transfection analyses. Experiments assessing dermal wound healing in mice were performed with adenovirus-driven overexpression of active TGFbeta1 and ET-1, with or without treatment with bosentan. The contributions of TGFbeta1 and ET-1 to the fibrotic response were also assessed in a mouse model of bleomycin-induced skin fibrosis, by histologic, immunohistochemical, RT-PCR, and protein analyses.
Results: TGFbeta1 induced ET-1 expression in human dermal fibroblasts through Smad- and activator protein 1/JNK-dependent signaling. The ability of TGFbeta1 to induce the expression of profibrotic genes was dependent on ET-1. Adenovirus-mediated overexpression of TGFbeta1 and ET-1 in mouse skin was associated with accelerated wound closure, increased fibrogenesis, and excessive scarring. Treatment with bosentan prevented the effects of TGFbeta1. In the bleomycin-induced fibrosis model, treatment with GW788388 and bosentan prevented the fibrotic response.
Conclusion: Our results strongly support the notion that the TGFbeta1/ET-1 axis has a role in wound repair and skin fibrosis. ET-1 receptor antagonists, such as bosentan, may represent a useful therapeutic tool in the treatment of excessive scarring and fibrosis-related diseases.