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Fibrogenesis Tissue Repair. 2016 May 10;9:7. doi: 10.1186/s13069-016-0044-2. eCollection 2016.

Protective role for miR-9-5p in the fibrogenic transformation of human dermal fibroblasts.

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Department of Cell Biology and Immunology, Centro de Biología Molecular "Severo Ochoa", Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas-Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Nicolás Cabrera 1, 28049 Madrid, Spain.



Excessive accumulation of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins is the hallmark of fibrotic diseases, including skin fibrosis. This response relies on the activation of dermal fibroblasts that evolve into a pro-fibrogenic phenotype. One of the major players in this process is the cytokine transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β). MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs that post-transcriptionally regulate gene expression affecting a wide range of pathophysiological events including fibrogenesis. MicroRNA-9-5p (miR-9-5p) has been shown to exert a protective role in lung and peritoneal fibrosis. This study aimed to evaluate the role of miR-9-5p in skin fibrosis.


miR-9-5p is up-regulated in TGF-β1-treated human dermal fibroblasts (HDFs). In silico identification of miR-9-5p targets spotted the type II TGF-β receptor (TGFBR2) as a potential TGF-β signaling-related effector for this miRNA. Consistently, over-expression of miR-9-5p in HDFs down-regulated TGFBR2 at both the mRNA and protein levels and reduced the phosphorylation of Smad2 and the translocation of Smad2/3 to the nucleus. In keeping, over-expression of miR-9-5p significantly delayed TGF-β1-dependent transformation of dermal fibroblasts, decreasing the expression of ECM protein collagen, type I, alpha 1 (Col1α1), and fibronectin (FN), the amount of secreted collagen proteins, and the expression of the archetypal myofibroblast marker alpha-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA). By contrast, specific inhibition of miR-9-5p resulted in enhanced presence of fibrosis markers. The expression of miR-9-5p was also detected in the skin and plasma in the mouse model of bleomycin-induced dermal fibrosis. Using lentiviral constructs, we demonstrated that miR-9-5p over-expression was also capable of deterring fibrogenesis in this same model.


miR-9-5p significantly prevents fibrogenesis in skin fibrosis. This is mediated by an abrogation of TGF-β-mediated signaling through the down-regulation of TGFBR2 expression in HDFs. These results may pave the way for future diagnostic or therapeutic developments for skin fibrosis based on miR-9-5p.


Myofibroblasts; Skin fibrosis; TGF-β signaling; miR-9-5p

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