Myofibroblasts are crucial to the pathogenesis of tissue fibrosis. Their formation of stress fibers results in the release of myocardin-related transcription factor (MRTF), a transcriptional coactivator of serum response factor (SRF). MRTF-A (Mkl1)-deficient mice are protected from lung fibrosis. We hypothesized that the SRF/MRTF pathway inhibitor CCG-203971 would modulate myofibroblast function in vitro and limit lung fibrosis in vivo. Normal and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis lung fibroblasts were treated with/without CCG-203971 (N-[4-chlorophenyl]-1-[3-(2-furanyl)benzoyl]-3-piperidine carboxamide) and/or Fas-activating antibody in the presence/absence of transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1, and apoptosis was assessed. In vivo studies examined the effect of therapeutically administered CCG-203971 on lung fibrosis in two distinct murine models of fibrosis induced by bleomycin or targeted type II alveolar epithelial injury. In vitro, CCG-203971 prevented nuclear localization of MRTF-A; increased the apoptotic susceptibility of normal and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis fibroblasts; blocked TGF-β1-induced myofibroblast differentiation; and inhibited TGF-β1-induced expression of fibronectin, X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis, and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1. TGF-β1 did not protect fibroblasts or myofibroblasts from apoptosis in the presence of CCG-203971. In vivo, CCG-203971 significantly reduced lung collagen content in both murine models while decreasing alveolar plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 and promoting myofibroblast apoptosis. These data support a central role of the SRF/MRTF pathway in the pathobiology of lung fibrosis and suggest that its inhibition can help resolve lung fibrosis by promoting fibroblast apoptosis.
Copyright © 2015 American Society for Investigative Pathology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.