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J Cell Sci. 2001 Oct;114(Pt 19):3507-16.

Regulation of human lung fibroblast phenotype and function by vitronectin and vitronectin integrins.

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Asthma and Allergy Research Institute, Nedlands, Western Australia, 6009.


Myofibroblasts, characterised by high expression of alpha-smooth muscle actin (alpha-SMA), are important and transient cells in normal wound healing but are found in increased number in various pathological conditions of the lung including asthma and pulmonary fibrosis. The mechanisms that regulate the myofibroblast phenotype are unknown but are likely to involve signals from the extracellular matrix transmitted via specific integrins. Vitronectin is a glycoprotein released during inflammation and has been shown to regulate the phenotype of vascular smooth muscle cells via alpha v and beta 1 integrins. In the current study we have examined whether vitronectin influences the phenotype and function of normal human lung fibroblasts (HFL-1). Incubation of HFL-1 cells with vitronectin induced a concentration-dependent reduction in alpha-SMA expression. By contrast, function-blocking monoclonal antibodies to the vitronectin integrins alpha v, beta 1, alpha v beta 3 and alpha v beta 5 induced the expression of alpha-SMA and its organization into stress fibers. Expression of alpha-SMA induced by all function-blocking monoclonal antibodies was abrogated by inhibition of protein kinase C and phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase, but the effects of inhibition of other signalling pathways was integrin dependent. Exposure to other extracellular matrix proteins such as fibronectin, collagen or their integrins did not influence expression of alpha-SMA. The expression and organization of alpha-SMA induced by exposure to function-blocking antibodies was translated into an augmented capacity of HFL-1 cells to contract fibroblast populated collagen gels. By contrast, contraction of collagen gels following incubation with vitronectin was not significantly different to control. This study has shown that vitronectin influences the phenotype and behaviour of HFL-1 cells by downregulating the expression of alpha-SMA and reducing their contractile ability. By contrast, occupancy of specific integrins by function-blocking antibodies upregulated the expression of alpha-SMA and induced the formation of functional stress fibers capable of contracting collagen gels. These results suggest that vitronectin modulates the fibroblast-myofibroblast phenotype, implying an important role in the remodelling process during lung development or response to injury.

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