Activin A induces leiomyoma cell proliferation, extracellular matrix (ECM) accumulation and myofibroblastic transformation of myometrial cells via p38 MAPK

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2018 Oct 2;504(2):447-453. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2018.08.171. Epub 2018 Sep 5.


Objective: The objective of this study was to evaluate the role of Activin A and p38β MAPK-activated signaling in human leiomyoma cells, myometrial cells and mouse myometrial tissues.

Methods: The immortalization human leiomyoma cells (HuLM), the immortalized human myometrial cells (HM) and mouse myometrial tissues were treated with Activin A (4 nM) and/or specific p38 inhibitor SB202190 (10 μM) for different days of interval (to measure proliferation rate) or 1 h (to measure signaling molecules) or 48 h (to measure proliferating markers Ki-67, ECM mRNA, and/or ECM protein expression) by real-time PCR, Western blot, and/or immunocytochemistry.

Results: Activin A induced cell proliferation and ECM proteins accumulation in HuLM cells via p38 MAPK. Activin A also induced myofibroblastic transformation in HM cells and mouse myometrical tissues via the phosphorylation of p38. The effects of Activin A in leiomyoma cells, myometrical cells and tissues were abolished by p38α/β MAPK inhibitor SB202190.

Conclusion: This study demonstrates Activin A-p38 MAPK signaling pathway in leiomyoma and myometrium may contribute to excessive ECM production, leiomyoma growth and progression. Targeting Activin A-p38 MAPK signaling pathway could be a potential therapeutic intervention for uterine leiomyoma.

Keywords: Extracellular matrix; Myofibroblastic transformation; SB202190; Uterine leiomyoma; p38α/βMAPK.

MeSH terms

  • Activins / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leiomyoma / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Myofibroblasts / metabolism*
  • Myometrium / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Uterine Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism*


  • activin A
  • Activins
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases