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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the authors' final version prior to publication in Matrix Biology

Volume 51, April 2016, Pages 26–36.

The published version is available at DOI: 10.1016/j.matbio.2016.01.012. Copyright © International Society of Matrix Biology


Systemic Sclerosis (SSc) is a systemic autoimmune disease characterized by progressive fibrosis of skin and multiple internal organs and severe functional and structural microvascular alterations. SSc is considered to be the prototypic systemic fibrotic disorder. Despite currently available therapeutic approaches SSc has a high mortality rate owing to the development of SSc-associated interstitial lung disease (ILD) and pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), complications that have emerged as the most frequent causes of disability and mortality in SSc. The pathogenesis of the fibrotic process in SSc is complex and despite extensive investigation the exact mechanisms have remained elusive. Myofibroblasts are the cells ultimately responsible for tissue fibrosis and fibroproliferative vasculopathy in SSc. Tissue myofibroblasts in SSc originate from several sources including expansion of quiescent tissue fibroblasts and tissue accumulation of CD34+ fibrocytes. Besides these sources, myofibroblasts in SSc may result from the phenotypic conversion of endothelial cells into activated myofibroblasts, a process known as endothelial to mesenchymal transition (EndoMT). Recently, it has been postulated that EndoMT may play a role in the development of SSc-associated ILD and PAH. However, although several studies have described the occurrence of EndoMT in experimentally induced cardiac, renal, and pulmonary fibrosis and in several human disorders, the contribution of EndoMT to SSc-associated ILD and PAH has not been generally accepted. Here, the experimental evidence supporting the concept that EndoMT plays a role in the pathogenesis of SSc-associated ILD and PAH will be reviewed.

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