COMP promotes pancreatic fibrosis by activating pancreatic stellate cells through CD36-ERK/AKT signaling pathways

Cell Signal. 2024 Jun:118:111135. doi: 10.1016/j.cellsig.2024.111135. Epub 2024 Mar 11.


Background: Pancreatic fibrosis is one of the most important pathological features of chronic pancreatitis (CP) and pancreatic stellate cells (PSCs) are the key cells of fibrosis. As an extracellular matrix (ECM) glycoprotein, cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP) is critical for collagen assembly and ECM stability and recent studies showed that COMP exert promoting fibrosis effect in the skin, lungs and liver. However, the role of COMP in activation of PSCs and pancreatic fibrosis remain unclear. We aimed to investigate the role and specific mechanisms of COMP in regulating the profibrotic phenotype of PSCs and pancreatic fibrosis.

Methods: ELISA method was used to determine serum COMP in patients with CP. Mice model of CP was established by repeated intraperitoneal injection of cerulein and pancreatic fibrosis was evaluated by Hematoxylin-Eosin staining (H&E) and Sirius red staining. Immunohistochemical staining was used to detect the expression changes of COMP and fibrosis marker such as α-SMA and Fibronectin in pancreatic tissue of mice. Cell Counting Kit-8, Wound Healing and Transwell assessed the proliferation and migration of human pancreatic stellate cells (HPSCs). Western blotting, qRT-PCR and immunofluorescence staining were performed to detect the expression of fibrosis marker, AKT and MAPK family proteins in HPSCs. RNA-seq omics analysis as well as small interfering RNA of COMP, recombinant human COMP (rCOMP), MEK inhibitors and PI3K inhibitors were used to study the effect and mechanism of COMP on activation of HPSCs.

Results: ELISA showed that the expression of COMP significantly increased in the serum of CP patients. H&E and Sirius red staining analysis showed that there was a large amount of collagen deposition in the mice in the CP model group and high expression of COMP, α-SMA, Fibronectin and Vimentin were observed in fibrotic tissues. TGF-β1 stimulates the activation of HPSCs and increases the expression of COMP. Knockdown of COMP inhibited proliferation and migration of HPSCs. Further, RNA-seq omics analysis and validation experiments in vitro showed that rCOMP could significantly promote the proliferation and activation of HPSCs, which may be due to promoting the phosphorylation of ERK and AKT through membrane protein receptor CD36. rCOMP simultaneously increased the expression of α-SMA, Fibronectin and Collagen I in HPSCs.

Conclusion: In conclusion, this study showed that COMP was up-regulated in CP fibrotic tissues and COMP induced the activation, proliferation and migration of PSCs through the CD36-ERK/AKT signaling pathway. COMP may be a potential therapeutic candidate for the treatment of CP. Interfering with the expression of COMP or the communication between COMP and CD36 on PSCs may be the next direction for therapeutic research.

Keywords: CD36; Cartilage oligomeric matrix protein; Chronic pancreatitis; Pancreatic fibrosis; Pancreatic stellate cells.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cartilage Oligomeric Matrix Protein / metabolism
  • Cartilage Oligomeric Matrix Protein / pharmacology
  • Cartilage Oligomeric Matrix Protein / therapeutic use
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Collagen Type I / metabolism
  • Fibronectins / metabolism
  • Fibrosis
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Pancreatic Diseases* / metabolism
  • Pancreatic Stellate Cells / metabolism
  • Pancreatic Stellate Cells / pathology
  • Pancreatitis, Chronic* / drug therapy
  • Pancreatitis, Chronic* / metabolism
  • Pancreatitis, Chronic* / pathology
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • Cartilage Oligomeric Matrix Protein
  • Collagen Type I
  • Fibronectins
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • COMP protein, human