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J Biol Chem. 1988 Apr 25;263(12):5841-5.

Tumor necrosis factor alpha inhibits collagen gene transcription and collagen synthesis in cultured human fibroblasts.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Veterans Administration Medical Center, San Diego, California.


The effects of recombinant human tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha) on collagen production and gene expression in cultured fibroblasts were studied. Cells were labeled with [3H]proline, and the radioactivity of collagenase-sensitive and -resistant proteins were used to calculate the rates of protein production. The net production of collagen relative to total proteins was inhibited by TNF alpha (0-1.2 nM) in a dose- and time-related manner. The specific activities of the free [3H]proline pool, which were similar in control and TNF alpha-treated cells, were used to calculate the absolute rates of protein production. The absolute rate of collagen production was decreased by 50% in the presence of 1.2 nM TNF alpha during 24-h incubations (851 +/- 104 versus 426 +/- 39 pmol/micrograms of DNA/h; p less than 0.01), whereas noncollagen protein production and the rate of procollagen secretion were unchanged. We found no evidence of cellular toxicity in cultured cells treated with TNF alpha. In addition, TNF alpha did not affect cell proliferation as determined by [6-3H]thymidine incorporation into DNA. Most of the collagen produced by the cultured fibroblasts was type I. Using hybridization with specific DNA probes there was an approximately 50% decrease in the quantity of procollagen alpha 1(I) mRNA, without changes in the quantity of alpha tubulin mRNA or the size of the transcripts, in cells incubated with TNF alpha. Interleukin-1 (2.5 ng/ml) also decreased the levels of procollagen alpha 1(I) mRNA by approximately 50%. Cycloheximide (0.1 mM), an inhibitor of protein synthesis, blocked the inhibitory effect of both TNF alpha and interleukin-1 on procollagen alpha 1(I) mRNA. Nuclear run-off assays demonstrated that TNF alpha decreased procollagen alpha 1(I) transcriptional activity by 50% and had no effects on alpha tubulin gene transcription. Thus, TNF alpha decreases collagen gene transcription, collagen mRNA levels, and collagen production in cultured fibroblasts.

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