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      Relaxin Prevents Cardiac Fibroblast-Myofibroblast Transition via Notch-1-Mediated Inhibition of TGF-β/Smad3 Signaling

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          The hormone relaxin (RLX) is produced by the heart and has beneficial actions on the cardiovascular system. We previously demonstrated that RLX stimulates mouse neonatal cardiomyocyte growth, suggesting its involvement in endogenous mechanisms of myocardial histogenesis and regeneration. In the present study, we extended the experimentation by evaluating the effects of RLX on primary cultures of neonatal cardiac stromal cells. RLX inhibited TGF-β1-induced fibroblast-myofibroblast transition, as judged by its ability to down-regulate α-smooth muscle actin and type I collagen expression. We also found that the hormone up-regulated metalloprotease (MMP)-2 and MMP-9 expression and downregulated the tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases (TIMP)-2 in TGF-β1-stimulated cells. Interestingly, the effects of RLX on cardiac fibroblasts involved the activation of Notch-1 pathway. Indeed, Notch-1 expression was significantly decreased in TGF-β1-stimulatedfibroblasts as compared to the unstimulated controls; this reduction was prevented by the addition of RLX to TGF-β1-stimulated cells. Moreover, pharmacological inhibition of endogenous Notch-1 signaling by N-3,5-difluorophenyl acetyl-L-alanyl-2-phenylglycine-1,1-dimethylethyl ester (DAPT), a γ-secretase specific inhibitor, as well as the silencing of Notch-1 ligand, Jagged-1, potentiated TGF-β1-induced myofibroblast differentiation and abrogated the inhibitory effects of RLX. Interestingly, RLX and Notch-1 exerted their inhibitory effects by interfering with TGF-β1 signaling, since the addition of RLX to TGF-β1-stimulated cells caused a significant decrease in Smad3 phosphorylation, a typical downstream event of TGF-β1 receptor activation, while the treatment with a prevented this effect. These data suggest that Notch signaling can down-regulate TGF-β1/Smad3-induced fibroblast-myofibroblast transition and that RLX could exert its well known anti-fibrotic action through the up-regulation of this pathway. In conclusion, the results of the present study beside supporting the role of RLX in the field of cardiac fibrosis, provide novel experimental evidence on the molecular mechanisms underlying its effects.

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          Most cited references 41

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          Integration of TGF-beta/Smad and Jagged1/Notch signalling in epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition.

          Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transitions (EMTs) underlie cell plasticity required in embryonic development and frequently observed in advanced carcinogenesis. Transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) induces EMT phenotypes in epithelial cells in vitro and has been associated with EMT in vivo. Here we report that expression of the hairy/enhancer-of-split-related transcriptional repressor Hey1, and the Notch-ligand Jagged1 (Jag1), was induced by TGF-beta at the onset of EMT in epithelial cells from mammary gland, kidney tubules, and epidermis. The HEY1 expression profile was biphasic, consisting of immediate-early Smad3-dependent, Jagged1/Notch-independent activation, followed by delayed, indirect Jagged1/Notch-dependent activation. TGF-beta-induced EMT was blocked by RNA silencing of HEY1 or JAG1, and by chemical inactivation of Notch. The EMT phenotype, biphasic activation of Hey1, and delayed expression of Jag1 were induced by TGF-beta in wild-type, but not in Smad3-deficient, primary mouse kidney tubular epithelial cells. Our findings identify a new mechanism for functional integration of Jagged1/Notch signalling and coordinated activation of the Hey1 transcriptional repressor controlled by TGF-beta/Smad3, and demonstrate functional roles for Smad3, Hey1, and Jagged1/Notch in mediating TGF-beta-induced EMT.
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            TGF-β signaling in tissue fibrosis: redox controls, target genes and therapeutic opportunities.

            During development of TGF-β1-initiated fibroproliferative disorders, NADPH oxidases (NOX family members) generate reactive oxygen species (ROS) resulting in downstream transcription of a subset genes encoding matrix structural elements and profibrotic factors. Prominent among the repertoire of disease-implicated genes is the TGF-β1 target gene encoding the potent profibrotic matricellular protein plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1 or SERPINE1). PAI-1 is the major physiologic inhibitor of the plasmin-based pericellular cascade and a causative factor in the development of vascular thrombotic and fibroproliferative disorders. ROS generation in response to TGF-β1 stimulation is rapid and precedes PAI-1 induction; engagement of non-SMAD (e.g., EGFR, Src kinase, MAP kinases, p53) and SMAD2/3 pathways are both required for PAI-1 expression and are ROS-dependent. Recent findings suggest a novel role for p53 in TGF-β1-induced PAI-1 transcription that involves ROS generation and p53/SMAD interactions. Targeting ROS and ROS-activated cellular events is likely to have therapeutic implications in the management of fibrotic disorders, particularly in the context of prolonged TGF-β1 signaling. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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              Cross-talk between the Notch and TGF-β signaling pathways mediated by interaction of the Notch intracellular domain with Smad3

              The Notch and transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) signaling pathways play critical roles in the control of cell fate during metazoan development. However, mechanisms of cross-talk and signal integration between the two systems are unknown. Here, we demonstrate a functional synergism between Notch and TGF-β signaling in the regulation of Hes-1, a direct target of the Notch pathway. Activation of TGF-β signaling up-regulated Hes-1 expression in vitro and in vivo. This effect was abrogated in myogenic cells by a dominant-negative form of CSL, an essential DNA-binding component of the Notch pathway. TGF-β regulated transcription from the Hes-1 promoter in a Notch-dependent manner, and the intracellular domain of Notch1 (NICD) cooperated synergistically with Smad3, an intracellular transducer of TGF-β signals, to induce the activation of synthetic promoters containing multimerized CSL- or Smad3-binding sites. NICD and Smad3 were shown to interact directly, both in vitro and in cells, in a ligand-dependent manner, and Smad3 could be recruited to CSL-binding sites on DNA in the presence of CSL and NICD. These findings indicate that Notch and TGF-β signals are integrated by direct protein–protein interactions between the signal-transducing intracellular elements from both pathways.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                21 May 2013
                : 8
                : 5
                Department of Experimental and Clinical Medicine - Section of Anatomy and Histology, University of Florence, Florence, Italy
                Albert Einstein College of Medicine, United States of America
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Conceived and designed the experiments: CS LF. Performed the experiments: CS FC AP AT SN. Analyzed the data: CS FC AP SN DN LF. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: SZO DB LF. Wrote the paper: LF. Critically and carefully read the manuscript: DB SZO.


                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Page count
                Pages: 12
                This work was financially supported by research grants from the University of Florence to C.S., S.Z.O., D.B and L.F. and the Italian Ministry of University and Research-MIUR-PRIN 2008 to S.Z.O. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Research Article
                Developmental Biology
                Molecular Cell Biology
                Cellular Types
                Stem Cells
                Adult Stem Cells
                Connective Tissue Cells
                Muscle Cells
                Signal Transduction
                Membrane Receptor Signaling
                Hormone Receptor Signaling
                Signaling Cascades
                TGF-beta signaling cascade
                Signaling in Cellular Processes
                Smad Signaling
                Transmembrane Signaling
                Signaling Pathways
                Heart Failure
                Myocardial Infarction
                Drugs and Devices
                Cardiovascular Pharmacology



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