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26 February 2024

Mechanisms of Fibroblast Activation during Fibrotic Tissue Remodeling

Fibrosis can occur in almost every organ system. It can occur in single organs, such as in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), or affect multiple organs as in systemic sclerosis (SSc). Fibrotic diseases are recognized as major cause of morbidity and mortality in modern societies due to the dysfunction or loss of function of the affected organs. This dysfunction is caused by progressive deposition of extracellular matrix proteins released by activated fibroblasts. Activation of fibroblasts and differentiation into myofibroblasts is required for physiological tissue remodeling, e.g, during wound healing. Disruption of regulatory mechanisms, however, results in chronic and uncontrolled activity of fibroblasts and myofibroblasts. Intensive research during the past years identified several core pathways of pathophysiological relevance, and described different fibroblast subsets based on their expression profile in fibrotic tissue. Herein, we discuss the molecular changes in fibroblasts leading to persistent activation during fibrotic tissue remodeling with a focus on lung fibrosis and SSc.

Keywords: Fibrosis; Systemic sclerosis; Fibroblast

Meeting Report

20 February 2024

The Cellular and Metabolic Bases of Organ Fibrosis: UNIA Workshop 2023 in Baeza, Spain

Fibrosis is defined by scarring and tissue hardening caused by excess deposition of extracellular matrix components, mainly collagens. A fibrotic response can occur in any tissue of the body and is the final outcome of an unbalanced reaction to inflammation and wound healing induced by a variety of insults, including persistent infections, autoimmune reactions, allergic responses, chemical exposure, radiation, and tissue injury. The accumulation of extracellular matrix proteins replaces the living tissue and disrupts the architecture leading to organ malfunction. Fibrosis remains a major clinical and therapeutic challenge and has been estimated to account for 45% of deaths in the developed world. While major advances regarding mechanistic knowledge on the underlying cell biology alterations in fibrosis have helped to characterize the main phases and mediators involved, this knowledge has not yielded significant progress in treatment. Only recently, the metabolic features associated to fibrosis have begun to emerge. This information, likely representing only the tip of the iceberg, suggests that metabolic derangement is a key culprit in the pathophysiology of fibrogenesis. The Workshop on The Cellular and Metabolic Bases of Organ Fibrosis, International University of Andalusia, Baeza, Spain, October 8–11, 2023 aimed to discuss the current knowledge and novel perspectives on the mechanisms contributing to the development of fibrosis in different organs and tissues, with particular focus on new methodological developments in metabolomics and therapeutic strategies.

Keywords: Fibrosis; Fibroblast; Inflammation; Metabolism; Tissue repair


01 February 2024

Molecular Regulation of Transforming Growth Factor-β1-induced Thioredoxin-interacting Protein Ubiquitination and Proteasomal Degradation in Lung Fibroblasts: Implication in Pulmonary Fibrosis

Thioredoxin-interacting protein (TXNIP) plays a critical role in regulation of cellular redox reactions and inflammatory responses by interacting with thioredoxin (TRX) or the inflammasome. The role of TXNIP in lung fibrosis and molecular regulation of its stability have not been well studied. Therefore, here we investigated the molecular regulation of TXNIP stability and its role in TGF-β1-mediated signaling in lung fibroblasts. TXNIP protein levels were significantly decreased in lung tissues from bleomycin-challenged mice. Overexpression of TXNIP attenuated transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1)-induced phosphorylation of Smad2/3 and fibronectin expression in lung fibroblasts, suggesting that decrease in TXNIP may contribute to the pathogenesis of lung fibrosis. Further, we observed that TGF-β1 lowered TXNIP protein levels, while TXNIP mRNA levels were unaltered by TGF-β1 exposure. TGF-β1 induced TXNIP degradation via the ubiquitin-proteasome system. A serine residue mutant (TNXIP-S308A) was resistant to TGF-β1-induced degradation. Furthermore, downregulation of ubiquitin-specific protease-13 (USP13) promoted the TGF-β1-induced TXNIP ubiquitination and degradation. Mechanistic studies revealed that USP13 targeted and deubiquitinated TXNIP. The results of this study revealed that the decrease of TXNIP in lungs apparently contributes to the pathogenesis of pulmonary fibrosis and that USP13 can target TXNP for deubiquitination and regulate its stability.

Keywords: TXNIP; Lung fibroblasts; Lung fibrosis; Deubiquitination; TGF-β1; USP13


21 December 2023

TANGO1 Dances to Export of Procollagen from the Endoplasmic Reticulum

ABSTRACT: The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to Golgi secretory pathway is an elegantly complex process whereby protein cargoes are manufactured, folded, and distributed from the ER to the cisternal layers of the Golgi stack before they are delivered to their final destinations. The export of large bulky cargoes such as procollagen and its trafficking to the Golgi is a sophisticated mechanism requiring TANGO1 (Transport ANd Golgi Organization protein 1. It is also called MIA3 (Melanoma Inhibitory Activity protein 3). TANGO1 has two prominent isoforms, TANGO1-Long and TANGO1-Short, and each isoform has specific functions. On the luminal side, TANGO1-Long has an HSP47 recruitment domain and uses this protein to collect collagen. It can also tether its paralog isoforms cTAGE5 and TALI and along with these proteins enlarges the vesicle to accommodate procollagen. Recent studies show that TANGO1-Long combines retrograde membrane flow with anterograde cargo transport. This complex mechanism is highly activated in fibrosis and promotes the excessive deposition of collagen in the tissues. The therapeutic targeting of TANGO1 may prove successful in the control of fibrotic disorders. This review focuses on TANGO1 and its complex interaction with other procollagen export factors that modulate increased vesicle size to accommodate the export of procollagen. 

Keywords: TANGO1; Fibrosis; Myofibroblast; Extracellular matrix; COPII; Systemic sclerosis


21 March 2023

Established Hepatic Stellate Cell Lines in Hepatology Research

Hepatic stellate cells comprise a minor cell population in the liver that plays a key role in the pathogenesis of hepatic fibrosis. In chronic liver damage, they undergo a transition from a quiescent to a highly proliferative phenotype with the capacity to synthesize large quantities of extracellular matrix compounds such as collagens. Because of their pivotal role in liver disease pathogenesis, this hepatic cell population has become into the focus of liver research for many years. However, the isolation of these cells is time consuming and requires trained laboratory personnel. In addition, working with primary cells requires the following of ethical and legal standards that need to be approved by the respective authorities. Therefore, continuous growing hepatic stellate cells have become very popular in research laboratories because they are widely available, easy to handle, allow a continuous supply of materials, and further allow reduction of lab animal use in biomedical research. This communication provides some general information about immortalized hepatic stellate cell lines from mouse, rats and humans.

Keywords: Cell culture; Cell lines; Hepatic stellate cells; Myofibroblasts; Liver; Fibrosis; In vitro; Translational research