Objective: Enhanced adhesive signaling, including activation of focal adhesion kinase (FAK), is a hallmark of fibroblasts from lung fibrosis patients, and FAK has therefore been hypothesized to be a key mediator of this disease. This study was undertaken to characterize the contribution of FAK to the development of pulmonary fibrosis both in vivo and in vitro.
Methods: FAK expression and activity were analyzed in lung tissue samples from lung fibrosis patients by immunohistochemistry. Mice orally treated with the FAK inhibitor PF-562,271, or with small interfering RNA (siRNA)-mediated silencing of FAK were exposed to intratracheally instilled bleomycin to induce lung fibrosis, and lungs were harvested for histologic and biochemical analysis. Using endothelin 1 (ET-1) as a stimulus, cell adhesion and contraction, as well as profibrotic gene expression, were studied in fibroblasts isolated from wild-type and FAK-deficient mouse embryos. ET-1-mediated FAK activation and gene expression were studied in primary mouse lung fibroblasts, as well as in wild-type and β1 integrin-deficient mouse fibroblasts.
Results: FAK expression and activity were up-regulated in fibroblast foci and remodeled vessels from lung fibrosis patients. Pharmacologic or siRNA-mediated targeting of FAK resulted in marked abrogation of bleomycin-induced lung fibrosis in mice. Loss of FAK impaired the acquisition of a profibrotic phenotype in response to ET-1. Profibrotic gene expression leading to myofibroblast differentiation required cell adhesion, and was driven by JNK activation through β1 integrin/FAK signaling.
Conclusion: These results implicate FAK as a central mediator of fibrogenesis, and highlight this kinase as a potential therapeutic target in fibrotic diseases.
Copyright © 2012 by the American College of Rheumatology.