Connective tissue growth factor induces collagen I expression in human lung fibroblasts through the Rac1/MLK3/JNK/AP-1 pathway

Chien-Huang Lin, Ming-Chih Yu, Wan-Hsuan Tung, Tzu-Ting Chen, Chung-Chi Yu, Chih-Ming Weng, Yan-Jyu Tsai, Kua-Jen Bai, Chuang-Ye Hong, Ming-Hsien Chien, Bing-Chang Chen
Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 2013, 1833 (12): 2823-2833
Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) plays an important role in lung fibrosis. In this study, we investigated the role of Rac1, mixed-lineage kinase 3 (MLK3), c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), and activator protein-1 (AP-1) in CTGF-induced collagen I expression in human lung fibroblasts. CTGF caused concentration- and time-dependent increases in collagen I expression. CTGF-induced collagen I expression was inhibited by the dominant negative mutant (DN) of Rac1 (RacN17), MLK3DN, MLK3 inhibitor (K252a), JNK1DN, JNK2DN, a JNK inhibitor (SP600125), and an AP-1 inhibitor (curcumin). Treatment of cells with CTGF caused activation of Rac1, MLK3, JNK, and AP-1. The CTGF-induced increase in MLK3 phosphorylation was inhibited by RacN17. Treatment with RacN17 and the MLK3DN inhibited CTGF-induced JNK phosphorylation. CTGF caused increases in c-Jun phosphorylation and the recruitment of c-Jun and c-Fos to the collagen I promoter. Furthermore, stimulation of cells with the CTGF resulted in increases in AP-1-luciferase activity; this effect was inhibited by Rac1N17, MLK3DN, JNK1DN, and JNK2DN. Moreover, CTGF-induced α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) expression was inhibited by the procollagen I small interfering RNA (siRNA). These results suggest for the first time that CTGF acting through Rac1 activates the MLK3/JNK signaling pathway, which in turn initiates AP-1 activation and recruitment of c-Jun and c-Fos to the collagen I promoter and ultimately induces collagen I expression in human lung fibroblasts.

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