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PLoS One. 2011 Jan 6;6(1):e15909. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0015909.

PPAR-γ ligands repress TGFβ-induced myofibroblast differentiation by targeting the PI3K/Akt pathway: implications for therapy of fibrosis.

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The Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, New York, United States of America.


Transforming growth factor beta (TGFβ) induced differentiation of human lung fibroblasts to myofibroblasts is a key event in the pathogenesis of pulmonary fibrosis. Although the typical TGFβ signaling pathway involves the Smad family of transcription factors, we have previously reported that peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ (PPAR-γ) ligands inhibit TGFβ-mediated differentiation of human lung fibroblasts to myofibroblasts via a Smad-independent pathway. TGFβ also activates the phosphatidylinositol 3 kinase/protein kinase B (PI3K/Akt) pathway leading to phosphorylation of Akt(S473). Here, we report that PPAR-γ ligands, 2-cyano-3,12-dioxooleana-1,9-dien-28-oic acid (CDDO) and 15-deoxy-(12,14)-15d-prostaglandin J(2) (15d-PGJ(2)), inhibit human myofibroblast differentiation of normal and idiopathic pulmonary fibrotic (IPF) fibroblasts, by blocking Akt phosphorylation at Ser473 by a PPAR-γ-independent mechanism. The PI3K inhibitor LY294002 and a dominant-negative inactive kinase-domain mutant of Akt both inhibited TGFβ-stimulated myofibroblast differentiation, as determined by Western blotting for α-smooth muscle actin and calponin. Prostaglandin A(1) (PGA(1)), a structural analogue of 15d-PGJ(2) with an electrophilic center, also reduced TGFβ-driven phosphorylation of Akt, while CAY10410, another analogue that lacks an electrophilic center, did not; implying that the activity of 15d-PGJ(2) and CDDO is dependent on their electrophilic properties. PPAR-γ ligands inhibited TGFβ-induced Akt phosphorylation via both post-translational and post-transcriptional mechanisms. This inhibition is independent of MAPK-p38 and PTEN but is dependent on TGFβ-induced phosphorylation of FAK, a kinase that acts upstream of Akt. Thus, PPAR-γ ligands inhibit TGFβ signaling by affecting two pro-survival pathways that culminate in myofibroblast differentiation. Further studies of PPAR-γ ligands and small electrophilic molecules may lead to a new generation of anti-fibrotic therapeutics.

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