Systemic sclerosis biomarkers detection in the secretome of TGFβ1-activated primary human lung fibroblasts

J Proteomics. 2021 Jun 30:242:104243. doi: 10.1016/j.jprot.2021.104243. Epub 2021 Apr 27.


TGFβ1 is a profibrotic mediator that contributes to a broad spectrum of pathologies, including systemic sclerosis-associated pulmonary fibrosis (SSc-PF). However, the secretome of TGFβ1-stimulated primary human normal lung (NL) fibroblasts has not been well characterized. Using fluorescent 2-dimensional gel electrophoresis (2D-PAGE) and differential gel electrophoresis (DIGE) followed by Mass Spectrometry, we identified 37 differentially secreted proteins in the conditioned media of TGFβ1-activated NL fibroblasts and generated a protein-protein association network of the TGFβ1 secretome using STRING. Functional enrichment revealed that several biological processes and pathways characteristic of PF were enriched. Additionally, by comparing the TGFβ1 secretome of NL fibroblasts to proteomic biomarkers from biological fluids of systemic sclerosis (SSc) patients, we identified 11 overlapping proteins. Together our data validate the TGFβ1-induced secretome of NL fibroblasts as a valid in vitro model that reflects SSc biomarkers and identify potential therapeutic targets for SSc-PF. SIGNIFICANCE: All proteins secreted by fibroblasts into the extracellular space, representing the secretome, promote cell-to-cell communication as well as tissue homeostasis, immune mechanisms, developmental regulation, proteolysis, development of the extracellular matrix (ECM) and cell adhesion. Therefore, it is crucial to understand how TGFβ1, a well-known profibrotic cytokine, modulates the secretome of pulmonary fibroblasts, and how the TGFβ1-induced secretome resembles biomarkers in SSc. Using functional enrichment analysis, key pathways and hub proteins can be identified and studied as potential therapeutic targets for pulmonary fibrosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • Fibroblasts
  • Humans
  • Lung
  • Proteomics*
  • Scleroderma, Systemic*


  • Biomarkers