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J Cell Physiol. 2011 May;226(5):1248-54. doi: 10.1002/jcp.22448.

Role of Smad2/3 and p38 MAP kinase in TGF-β1-induced epithelial-mesenchymal transition of pulmonary epithelial cells.

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Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.


Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is characterized by myofibroblast accumulation, extracellular matrix (ECM) remodeling, and excessive collagen deposition. ECM-producing myofibroblasts may originate from epithelial cells through epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT). TGF-β1 is an inducer of EMT in pulmonary epithelial cells in vitro and in vivo, though the mechanisms are unclear. We hypothesized that TGF-β1 induced EMT through Smad-dependent and -independent processes. To test this hypothesis, we studied the roles and mechanisms of TGF-β1-induced Smad and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling in EMT-related changes in pulmonary epithelial cells. Exposure of pulmonary epithelial 1HAEo(-) cells to TGF-β1 resulted in morphological and molecular changes of EMT over a 96-h period; loss of cell-cell contact, cell elongation, down-regulation of E-cadherin, up-regulation of fibronectin, and up-regulation of collagen I. Both Smad2/3 and p38 MAPK signaling pathways were activated by TGF-β1. However, neither Smad2/3 nor p38 MAPK were required for the down-regulation of E-cadherin, yet p38 MAPK was associated with fibronectin up-regulation. Both Smad2/3 and p38 MAPK had a role in regulation of TGF-β1-induced collagen expression. Furthermore, these data demonstrate that Smads and p38 MAPK differentially regulate EMT-related changes in pulmonary epithelial cells.

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