Lovastatin inhibits TGF-beta-induced myofibroblast transdifferentiation in human tenon fibroblasts

Tobias Meyer-Ter-Vehn, Barbara Katzenberger, Hong Han, Franz Grehn, Günther Schlunck
Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science 2008, 49 (9): 3955-60

PURPOSE: The transdifferentiation of Tenon fibroblasts to myofibroblasts is a pivotal step in filtering bleb scarring. It is mediated by the cytokine TGF-beta, Rho-dependent contractility, and cell-matrix interactions in an interdependent fashion. HMG-CoA-reductase inhibitors (statins) have been shown to inhibit Rho-GTPase signaling; therefore, the authors studied the influence of lovastatin on TGF-beta-mediated myofibroblast transdifferentiation to assess the potential use of statins in wound healing modulation.

METHODS: Human Tenon fibroblasts were grown in culture, pretreated with lovastatin, lovastatin and mevalonate, or specific inhibitors of farnesyl transferase or geranylgeranyl transferase and were stimulated with TGF-beta1. alpha-Smooth muscle actin (alpha-SMA) and connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) transcription were assessed by real-time PCR. alpha-SMA protein expression and localization were studied by Western blot and confocal immunofluorescence microscopy. Cell contractility was determined in collagen gel contraction assays. Phosphorylation of the signaling proteins Smad-2/3 and p38 were detected by Western blot, and Smad-2/3 localization was determined by confocal immunofluorescence microscopy.

RESULTS: Lovastatin inhibited TGF-beta-induced CTGF transcription, alpha-SMA expression and incorporation into actin stress fibers, and subsequent collagen gel contraction. These effects were reversed by mevalonate. The inhibition of geranylgeranyl transferase but not farnesyl transferase blocked TGF-beta-induced alpha-SMA expression. Lovastatin decreased TGF-beta-induced p38 activation, whereas Smad-2/3 phosphorylation and nuclear translocation were preserved.

CONCLUSIONS: Lovastatin inhibits TGF-beta-induced myofibroblast transdifferentiation in human Tenon fibroblasts, most likely by interfering with Rho-signaling. Statins may, therefore, serve to inhibit scarring after filtering glaucoma surgery.

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