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Arthritis Rheum. 2011 Jan;63(1):239-46. doi: 10.1002/art.30074.

CCN2 is required for bleomycin-induced skin fibrosis in mice.

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Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.



No therapy for fibrotic disease is available. The proadhesive matricellular protein connective tissue growth factor CCN2 is a marker of fibrotic cells; however, the specific role of CCN2 in connective tissue biology in general and in fibrogenesis in particular is unclear. The aim of this study was to assess whether adult mice bearing a smooth muscle cell/fibroblast-specific deletion of CCN2 are resistant to bleomycin-induced skin scleroderma.


Cutaneous fibrosis was induced in mice by subcutaneous injection of bleomycin. Untreated control groups were injected with phosphate buffered saline. Mice bearing a fibroblast/smooth muscle cell-specific deletion of CCN2 were investigated for changes in dermal thickness, collagen content, and the number of α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA)-positive cells. Dermal fibroblasts were isolated to assess whether the induction of collagen and α-SMA messenger RNA in response to transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) was impaired.


The loss of CCN2 resulted in resistance to bleomycin-induced skin fibrosis. In response to bleomycin, wild-type mice possessed, but CCN2-deficient mice lacked, abundant α-SMA-expressing myofibroblasts within fibrotic lesions. Fibroblast responses to TGFβ, a potent inducer of myofibroblast differentiation, were not affected. Collectively, these results indicate that CCN2 is essential for bleomycin-induced skin fibrosis, likely due to a defect in myofibroblast recruitment.


These data indicate that therapeutic strategies that involve blocking CCN2 in vivo may be of benefit in combating fibrotic skin disease.

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