The differential impact of PDE4 subtypes in human lung fibroblasts on cytokine-induced proliferation and myofibroblast conversion

J Cell Physiol. 2011 Aug;226(8):1970-80. doi: 10.1002/jcp.22529.


Lung fibroblast proliferation and differentiation into myofibroblasts are pathological key events during development of lung fibrosis. Cyclic nucleotide signaling is described as a negative modulator of these cellular processes, and cyclic nucleotide degrading type 4 phosphodiesterases (PDE4) are important regulators of these pathways. In this study, we elucidated expression and the role of individual subtypes of PDE4 in primary normal human lung fibroblast (NHLF) in controlling cytokines-induced proliferation and conversion to myofibroblasts by short-interfering RNAs (siRNAs) induced knockdown. We verified the expression of PDE4A, B, and D, while PDE4C was only minor or even not expressed in NHLF. An efficient liposome-mediated transfection method for mRNA silencing and a knockdown of the expressed PDE4 subtypes was achieved in these cells. This knockdown was further validated by PDE4 protein expression analysis and PDE4 activity measurements. Functionally, the knockdown of PDE4A and PDE4B inhibited proliferation induced by the cytokine combination of bFGF and IL-1β, whereas knockdown of PDE4D was ineffective. In contrast, TGF-β induced differentiation into myofibroblasts was affected by knockdown of PDE4B and PDE4D, but not by PDE4A knockdown. In summary, our data allow to assign different PDE4 subtypes to distinct functions of human lung fibroblasts and highlight the predominant role of PDE4B in controlling pathophysiological processes of human lung fibroblasts. This provides a scientific rationale for focused therapeutic targeting of PDE4B to treat respiratory diseases with fibrotic lesions in the lung.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aminopyridines / pharmacology
  • Benzamides / pharmacology
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cyclic Nucleotide Phosphodiesterases, Type 4 / genetics
  • Cyclic Nucleotide Phosphodiesterases, Type 4 / physiology*
  • Cyclopropanes / pharmacology
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Cytokines / physiology
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 2 / metabolism
  • Fibroblasts / enzymology*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-1beta / metabolism
  • Isoenzymes / metabolism
  • Lung / enzymology*
  • Lung / metabolism
  • Myofibroblasts / enzymology*
  • Phosphodiesterase 4 Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / drug therapy
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / metabolism
  • Pyridines / pharmacology
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism
  • RNA, Small Interfering / pharmacology
  • Transfection
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism


  • Aminopyridines
  • Benzamides
  • Cyclopropanes
  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Isoenzymes
  • Phosphodiesterase 4 Inhibitors
  • Pyridines
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Roflumilast
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 2
  • Cyclic Nucleotide Phosphodiesterases, Type 4
  • piclamilast