Loss-of-function mutations in the gene encoding type VII collagen underlie recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (RDEB), a disease characterized by skin and mucosal blistering, impaired wound healing, and diffuse dermal inflammation and fibrosis. Transforming growth factor-β signaling plays a crucial role in determining RDEB fibrotic microenvironment that leads to the development of disabling secondary disease manifestations, including hand and foot deformities. Experimental findings indicate that expression levels of decorin, a small leucine-rich proteoglycan and an endogenous TGF-β inhibitor, can modulate RDEB disease phenotype by contrasting dermal fibroblast fibrotic behavior. In this study, the ability of decorin to modify RDEB course was investigated by systemically treating RDEB mice with a lentivirus expressing human decorin. Overexpressed decorin was able to enhance survival, and to limit digit contraction and the development of paw deformities. These effects were associated with decreased TGF-β1 levels and TGF-β signaling activation. Fibrotic traits were strongly reduced in paw skin and also attenuated in the non-chronically injured back skin. However, the expression of pro-inflammatory proteins was not decreased in both paw and back skin. Our findings confirm TGF-β role in promoting fibrosis and disease progression in RDEB, and show that decorin counteracts disease manifestations by inhibiting TGF-β activation. More generally, our data indicate that modifying extracellular matrix composition is an option to improve RDEB disease course.
Keywords: Disease modifying therapy; Extracellular matrix; Fibrosis; Genodermatoses; Inflammation; Skin repair.
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