Mechanisms of Peritoneal Fibrosis: Focus on Immune Cells-Peritoneal Stroma Interactions

Front Immunol. 2021 Mar 29:12:607204. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2021.607204. eCollection 2021.


Peritoneal fibrosis is characterized by abnormal production of extracellular matrix proteins leading to progressive thickening of the submesothelial compact zone of the peritoneal membrane. This process may be caused by a number of insults including pathological conditions linked to clinical practice, such as peritoneal dialysis, abdominal surgery, hemoperitoneum, and infectious peritonitis. All these events may cause acute/chronic inflammation and injury to the peritoneal membrane, which undergoes progressive fibrosis, angiogenesis, and vasculopathy. Among the cellular processes implicated in these peritoneal alterations is the generation of myofibroblasts from mesothelial cells and other cellular sources that are central in the induction of fibrosis and in the subsequent functional deterioration of the peritoneal membrane. Myofibroblast generation and activity is actually integrated in a complex network of extracellular signals generated by the various cellular types, including leukocytes, stably residing or recirculating along the peritoneal membrane. Here, the main extracellular factors and the cellular players are described with emphasis on the cross-talk between immune system and cells of the peritoneal stroma. The understanding of cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying fibrosis of the peritoneal membrane has both a basic and a translational relevance, since it may be useful for setup of therapies aimed at counteracting the deterioration as well as restoring the homeostasis of the peritoneal membrane.

Keywords: T cell subpopulations; innate immunity; mesothelial cells; peritoneal fibrosis; peritonitis; pro-inflammatory cytokines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Cell Communication* / immunology
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Disease Susceptibility*
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism
  • Leukocytes / immunology
  • Leukocytes / metabolism
  • Peritoneal Dialysis / adverse effects
  • Peritoneal Fibrosis / etiology*
  • Peritoneal Fibrosis / metabolism*
  • Peritoneal Fibrosis / pathology
  • Peritoneum / immunology*
  • Peritoneum / metabolism*
  • Peritoneum / pathology
  • Peritonitis / complications
  • Peritonitis / etiology
  • Stromal Cells / metabolism*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • Cytokines
  • Inflammation Mediators