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Am J Pathol. 1990 Sep;137(3):585-91.

Smooth muscle differentiation in scleroderma fibroblastic cells.

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Division of Onco-Hematology, University Hospital of Geneva, Switzerland.


Using antibodies to alpha-smooth muscle actin and desmin on paraffin-embedded formalin-fixed tissue sections, the authors demonstrate that fibroblastic cells of localized and systemic scleroderma lesions express features of smooth muscle differentiation. Eleven of eleven skin specimens of systemic sclerosis patients and two of four skin specimens of localized scleroderma displayed the presence of fibroblasts expressing alpha-smooth muscle actin, a cell population that predominated in areas of prominent collagen deposition. A similar fibroblastic phenotype was found in the esophagus, the liver, and the lung specimens obtained from four patients who died of progressive systemic sclerosis. Immunostaining for desmin, performed on adjacent tissue sections, demonstrated that a minority of these fibroblastic cells present in skin and visceral lesions contained this protein. The authors' observations indicate that scleroderma fibroblasts are phenotypically related to the stromal cells previously identified in hypertrophic scars, fibromatoses, and desmoplasia; they might provide novel criteria for the characterization of scleroderma lesions and help to identify the factors responsible for phenotypic modulations in fibroblastic cells.

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