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Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 1999 Dec;21(6):658-65.

Inhibition of myofibroblast apoptosis by transforming growth factor beta(1).

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.


Fibroblast differentiation to the myofibroblast phenotype is associated with alpha-smooth-muscle actin (alpha-SMA) expression and regulated by cytokines. Among these, transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta(1) and interleukin (IL)-1beta can stimulate and inhibit myofibroblast differentiation, respectively. IL-1beta inhibits alpha-SMA expression by inducing apoptosis selectively in myofibroblasts via induction of nitric oxide synthase (inducible nitric oxide synthase [iNOS]). Because TGF-beta is known to inhibit iNOS expression, this study was undertaken to see if this cytokine can protect against IL-1beta-induced myofibroblast apoptosis. Rat lung fibroblasts were treated with IL-1beta and/or TGF-beta(1) and examined for expression of alpha-SMA, iNOS, and the apoptotic regulatory proteins bax and bcl-2. The results show that TGF-beta(1) caused a virtually complete suppression of IL-1beta-induced iNOS expression while preventing the decline in alpha-SMA expression or the myofibroblast subpopulation. TGF-beta(1) treatment also completely suppressed the IL-1beta-induced apoptosis in myofibroblasts. IL-1beta-induced apoptosis was associated with a significant decline in expression of the antiapoptotic protein bcl-2, which was prevented by concomitant TGF-beta(1) treatment. The level of the proapoptotic protein bax, however, was not significantly altered by either cytokine. These data suggest that TGF-beta(1) inhibits IL-1beta-induced apoptosis in myofibroblasts by at least two mechanisms, namely, the suppression of iNOS expression and the prevention of a decline in bcl-2 expression. Thus, TGF-beta(1) may be additionally important in fibrosis by virtue of this novel ability to promote myofibroblast survival by preventing the myofibroblast from undergoing apoptosis.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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