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Genet Mol Res. 2016 Jun 3;15(2). doi: 10.4238/gmr.15027530.

Artesunate modulates expression of matrix metalloproteinases and their inhibitors as well as collagen-IV to attenuate pulmonary fibrosis in rats.

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Division of Respiratory Diseases, Affiliated Hospital of Guilin Medical University, Guilin, Guangxi, China.


The aim of this study was to determine the effect of artesunate on extracellular matrix (ECM) accumulation and the expression of collagen-IV, matrix metalloproteinase (MMP), and tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinase (TIMP) to understand the pharmacological role of artesunate in pulmonary fibrosis. Eighty Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly assigned to four groups that were administered saline alone, bleomycin (BLM) alone, BLM + artesunate, or artesunate alone for 28 days. Lung tissues from 10 rats in each group were used to obtain lung fibroblast (LF) primary cells, and the rest were used to analyze protein expression. The mRNA expression of collagen-IV, MMP-2, MMP-9, TIMP-1, and TIMP-2 in lung fibroblasts was detected by real-time quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. The protein levels of collagen-IV, MMP-2, MMP-9, TIMP-1, and TIMP-2 protein in lung tissues were analyzed by western blotting. Artesunate treatment alleviated alveolitis and pulmonary fibrosis induced by bleomycin in rats, as indicated by a decreased lung coefficient and improvement of lung tissue morphology. Artesunate treatment also led to decreased collagen-IV protein levels, which might be a result of its downregulated expression and increased MMP-2 and MMP-9 protein and mRNA levels. Increased TIMP-1 and TIMP- 2 protein and mRNA levels were detected after artesunate treatment in lung tissues and primary lung fibroblast cells and may contribute to enhanced activity of MMP-2 and -9. These findings suggested that artesunate attenuates alveolitis and pulmonary fibrosis by regulating expression of collagen-IV, TIMP-1 and 2, as well as MMP-2 and -9, to reduce ECM accumulation.

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