The transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) signaling pathway plays a key role in the fibrotic process in systemic scleroderma (SSc). Curcumin, a Turmeric root extract, has been demonstrated to exert antifibrotic activity. In the present study, we carefully investigated the effect of curcumin on TGF-β signaling and its potential mechanism in SSc fibroblasts. We demonstrated a potent inhibitory effect of curcumin on TGF-β signaling. Curcumin counteracted TGF-β-induced phosphorylation of Smad2 but not Smad3. Further study revealed curcumin induced upregulation of TGF-β-induced factor (TGIF), a negative regulator of TGF-β signaling. The TGIF silencing results evidenced the essential role of TGIF in curcumin-mediated TGF-β/Smad2 suppression. Moreover, our data indicated that the upregulation of TGIF by curcumin might result from decreased ubiquitination of TGIF, which blocks its proteasome-mediated degradation. Collectively, our data provide a novel mechanism of curcumin-mediated suppression of fibrotic process in scleroderma.
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