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J Am Soc Nephrol. 2013 Feb;24(3):385-92. doi: 10.1681/ASN.2012101031. Epub 2012 Dec 28.

TGF-β1-containing exosomes from injured epithelial cells activate fibroblasts to initiate tissue regenerative responses and fibrosis.

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Division of Matrix Biology, Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Hypoxia is associated with tissue injury and fibrosis but its functional role in fibroblast activation and tissue repair/regeneration is unknown. Using kidney injury as a model system, we demonstrate that injured epithelial cells produce an increased number of exosomes with defined genetic information to activate fibroblasts. Exosomes released by injured epithelial cells promote proliferation, α-smooth muscle actin expression, F-actin expression, and type I collagen production in fibroblasts. Fibroblast activation is dependent on exosomes delivering TGF-β1 mRNA among other yet to be identified moieties. This study suggests that TGF-β1 mRNA transported by exosomes constitutes a rapid response to initiate tissue repair/regenerative responses and activation of fibroblasts when resident parenchyma is injured. The results also inform potential utility of exosome-targeted therapies to control tissue fibrosis.

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