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Am J Pathol. 1997 Sep; 151(3): 831–841.
PMCID: PMC1857854

Increased levels of endothelin-1 and differential endothelin type A and B receptor expression in scleroderma-associated fibrotic lung disease.


In addition to their vasoactive action, endothelins are potent peptides in the regulation of both cell proliferation and the turnover of extracellular matrix. Using immunohistochemical, autoradiographic, and molecular analyses, we have studied the localization and expression of endothelin-1 and endothelin A (ETA) and B (ETB) receptors in scleroderma-associated fibrotic lung disease. Increased ET-1 immunoreactivity was found in sclerotic tissue compared with control and was associated with the vasculature, pulmonary interstitium, and bronchial and alveolar epithelium. Microautoradiographic analysis after 125I-labeled ET-1 binding showed a two- to threefold increase in the expression of total ET-1 receptors in scleroderma lung tissue localized to the alveolar epithelium and the pulmonary interstitium which was composed of mainly fibroblastic cells with macrophages and some microvessels. RNAse protection assay revealed significantly reduced ETA receptor and slightly raised ETB message levels in systemic sclerosis lung. Surface expression of functional ET receptors was examined by targeted receptor blocking using mixed and receptor-subtype-selective ligands. A consistent decrease in ETA receptor binding sites was noted primarily within the interstitium and vasculature, in contrast to a slight increase in ETB receptors. Elevated ET-1 and the cell-specific pattern of endothelin receptor expression suggest that the endothelins may represent important mediators that influence the pathology of scleroderma-associated lung disease and other fibrotic conditions.

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