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Exp Eye Res. 2012 Jan;94(1):136-45. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2011.11.018. Epub 2011 Dec 8.

Electrophilic PPARγ ligands inhibit corneal fibroblast to myofibroblast differentiation in vitro: a potentially novel therapy for corneal scarring.

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University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, United States.


A critical component of corneal scarring is the TGFβ-induced differentiation of corneal keratocytes into myofibroblasts. Inhibitors of this differentiation are potentially therapeutic for corneal scarring. In this study, we tested the relative effectiveness and mechanisms of action of two electrophilic peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ) ligands: cyano-3,12-dioxolean-1,9-dien-28-oic acid-methyl ester (CDDO-Me) and 15-deoxy-Δ(-12,14)-prostaglandin J(2) (15d-PGJ(2)) for inhibiting TGFβ-induced myofibroblast differentiation in vitro. TGFβ was used to induce myofibroblast differentiation in cultured, primary human corneal fibroblasts. CDDO-Me and 15d-PGJ(2) were added to cultures to test their ability to inhibit this process. Myofibroblast differentiation was assessed by measuring the expression of myofibroblast-specific proteins (αSMA, collagen I, and fibronectin) and mRNA (αSMA and collagen III). The role of PPARγ in the inhibition of myofibroblast differentiation by these agents was tested in genetically and pharmacologically manipulated cells. Finally, we assayed the importance of electrophilicity in the actions of these agents on TGFβ-induced αSMA expression via Western blotting and immunofluorescence. Both electrophilic PPARγ ligands (CDDO-Me and 15d-PGJ(2)) potently inhibited TGFβ-induced myofibroblast differentiation, but PPARγ was only partially required for inhibition of myofibroblast differentiation by either agent. Electrophilic PPARγ ligands were able to inhibit myofibroblast differentiation more potently than non-electrophilic PPARγ ligands, suggesting an important role of electrophilicity in this process. CDDO-Me and 15d-PGJ(2) are strong inhibitors of TGFβ-induced corneal fibroblast to myofibroblast differentiation in vitro, suggesting this class of agents as potential novel therapies for corneal scarring warranting further study in pre-clinical animal models.

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