Contractility as a prerequisite for TGF-beta-induced myofibroblast transdifferentiation in human tenon fibroblasts

Tobias Meyer-ter-Vehn, Sonja Sieprath, Barbara Katzenberger, Susanne Gebhardt, Franz Grehn, Günther Schlunck
Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science 2006, 47 (11): 4895-904

PURPOSE: To assess the significance of Rho-kinase-dependent contractility in TGF-beta-induced myofibroblast transdifferentiation of human tenon fibroblasts to characterize possible pharmacological targets for the inhibition of postoperative scarring after glaucoma surgery.

METHODS: Human tenon fibroblasts (HTFs) were grown in culture and stimulated with TGF-beta1. The effect of TGF-beta on Rho-GTPase activity was assessed by GST-rhotekin binding domain pulldown assay and detected by Western blot analysis. Contractility was evaluated in a silicone substrate wrinkling assay and in fibroblast-populated collagen gels. The actin cytoskeleton and focal adhesions were visualized by immunofluorescence microscopy. alpha-SMA transcripts were measured by real-time RT-PCR. TGF-beta-induced Smad- and p38-activation and expression of alpha-SMA were detected by Western blot analysis. Nuclear translocation of Smad2/3 was determined by confocal immunofluorescence microscopy. The influence of Rho-dependent kinase (ROCK) and myosin light chain kinase (MLCK) were studied by using specific kinase inhibitors (Y-27632, HA-1077, H-1152, and ML-7).

RESULTS: Within 10 minutes of stimulation, TGF-beta induced Rho activation that was associated with an increase in cell tension and followed by actin stress fiber enhancement. ROCK inhibitors released cell tension and averted TGF-beta-induced cytoskeletal changes, p38 activation and subsequent alpha-SMA expression, whereas Smad2-phosphorylation and nuclear translocation were preserved. MLCK inhibition also blocked alpha-SMA expression. In fibroblast-populated collagen lattices, ROCK inhibitors prevented TGF-beta-induced stress fiber assembly and contraction.

CONCLUSIONS: TGF-beta induces a rapid contractile response in HTFs that precedes myofibroblast transdifferentiation. ROCK inhibitors release this contraction and block subsequent TGF-beta-induced myofibroblast transdifferentiation and may therefore serve to modulate postoperative scarring after glaucoma filtering surgery.

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