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FGF2-mediated attenuation of myofibroblast activation is modulated by distinct MAPK signaling pathways in human dermal fibroblasts.

  • Dolivo, David M1
  • Larson, Sara A1
  • Dominko, Tanja2
  • 1 Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Department of Biology and Biotechnology, 100 Institute Road, Worcester, MA, 01609, United States. , (United States)
  • 2 Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Department of Biology and Biotechnology, 100 Institute Road, Worcester, MA, 01609, United States. Electronic address: [email protected] , (United States)
Published Article
Journal of dermatological science
Publication Date
Dec 01, 2017
DOI: 10.1016/j.jdermsci.2017.08.013
PMID: 28899582


Previous human and animal studies have demonstrated the ability of exogenously administered basic fibroblast growth factor (FGF2) to act as an antifibrotic agent in the skin. Though the activity of FGF2 as an anti-scarring agent is well-established for fibrotic skin wounds, the mechanisms by which FGF2 exerts these actions are not entirely understood. Canonical FGF2 signaling proceeds in part via FGFR/MAPK pathways in human dermal fibroblasts, and FGF2 has been described to prevent or reverse the fibroblast-to-myofibroblast transition, which is driven by TGFβ signaling and understood to be an important step in the formation of a fibrotic scar in vivo. Thus, we set out to investigate the antagonistic effects of FGF2 on TGFβ signaling as well as the broader effects of MAPK inhibition on the TGFβ-mediated induction of myofibroblast gene expression. To better understand the effects of FGF2 signaling pathways on myofibroblastic gene expression and cell phenotypes. Human dermal fibroblasts were cultured in vitro in the presence of FGF2, TGFβ, and/or MAPK inhibitors, and the effects of these agents were investigated by molecular biology techniques including qRT-PCR, immunofluorescence, Western blot, and flow cytometry. FGF2 inhibited TGFβ-mediated fibroblast activation, resulting in more rapidly proliferating, spindle-shaped cells, compared to the more slowly proliferating, flatter TGFβ-treated cells. Treatment with FGF2 also attenuated TGFβ-mediated increase in expression of myofibroblast markers smooth muscle α-actin, calponin, transgelin, connective tissue growth factor, ED-A fibronectin, and collagen I. FGF2-mediated antagonism of the TGFβ-mediated fibroblast-to-myofibroblast transition was reversed by small molecule inhibition of ERK or JNK, and it was potentiated by inhibition of p38. MAPK inhibition was demonstrated to have qualitatively similar effects even in the absence of exogenous FGF2, and small molecule inhibition of p38 MAPK was sufficient to attenuate TGFβ-mediated fibroblast activation. Inhibition of select MAPK signaling pathways can reverse or potentiate anti-fibrotic FGF2 effects on human dermal fibroblasts, as well as exert their effects independently of exogenous FGF2 supplementation. Copyright © 2017 Japanese Society for Investigative Dermatology. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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