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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the author’s final published version in PLoS ONE

Volume 11, Issue 9, September 2016, Article number e0161988.

The published version is available at DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0161988. Copyright © Wermuth et al.


TGF-β-induced endothelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EndoMT) is a newly recognized source of profibrotic activated myofibroblasts and has been suggested to play a role in the pathogenesis of various fibrotic processes. Endothelin-1 (ET-1) has been implicated in the development of tissue fibrosis but its participation in TGF-β-induced EndoMT has not been studied. Here we evaluated the role of ET-1 on TGF-β1-induced EndoMT in immunopurified CD31+/CD102+ murine lung microvascular endothelial cells. The expression levels of α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA), of relevant profibrotic genes, and of various transcription factors involved in the EndoMT process were assessed employing quantitative RT-PCR, immunofluorescence histology and Western blot analysis. TGF-β1 caused potent induction of EndoMT whereas ET-1 alone had a minimal effect. However, ET-1 potentiated TGF-β1-induced EndoMT and TGF-β1-stimulated expression of mesenchymal cell specific and profibrotic genes and proteins. ET-1 also induced expression of the TGF-β receptor 1 and 2 genes, suggesting a plausible autocrine mechanism to potentiate TGF-β-mediated EndoMT and fibrosis. Stimulation of TGF-β1-induced skin and lung fibrosis by ET-1 was confirmed in vivo in an animal model of TGF-β1-induced tissue fibrosis. These results suggest a novel role for ET-1 in the establishment and progression of tissue fibrosis.

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