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FASEB J. 2008 Jun;22(6):1769-77. doi: 10.1096/fj.07-087627. Epub 2008 Jan 24.

Fibroblast growth factor represses Smad-mediated myofibroblast activation in aortic valvular interstitial cells.

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  • 1University of Colorado, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Boulder, CO 80309-0424, USA.


This study aimed to identify signaling pathways that oppose connective tissue fibrosis in the aortic valve. Using valvular interstitial cells (VICs) isolated from porcine aortic valve leaflets, we show that basic fibroblast growth factor (FGF-2) effectively blocks transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-beta1)-mediated myofibroblast activation. FGF-2 prevents the induction of alpha-smooth muscle actin (alphaSMA) expression and the exit of VICs from the cell cycle, both of which are hallmarks of myofibroblast activation. By blocking the activity of the Smad transcription factors that serve as the downstream nuclear effectors of TGF-beta1, FGF-2 treatment inhibits fibrosis in VICs. Using an exogenous Smad-responsive transcriptional promoter reporter, we show that Smad activity is repressed by FGF-2, likely an effect of the fact that FGF-2 treatment prevents the nuclear localization of Smads in these cells. This appears to be a direct effect of FGF signaling through mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascades as the treatment of VICs with the MAPK/extracellular regulated kinase (MEK) inhibitor U0126 acted to induce fibrosis and blocked the ability of FGF-2 to inhibit TGF-beta1 signaling. Furthermore, FGF-2 treatment of VICs blocks the development of pathological contractile and calcifying phenotypes, suggesting that these pathways may be utilized in the engineering of effective treatments for valvular disease.

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