Halofuginone down-regulates Smad3 expression and inhibits the TGFbeta-induced expression of fibrotic markers in human corneal fibroblasts

Elizabeth F. Nelson, Craig W. Huang, Jillian M. Ewel, Angela A. Chang, Ching Yuan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations

Abstract

Purpose: Due to its ability to disrupt transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) signaling, halofuginone has been successfully used to treat various fibrotic disorders. Here we investigated the antifibrotic potential of halofuginone in human corneal fibroblasts. Methods: Human corneal fibroblasts were isolated from human donor corneas for in vitro experiments. TGF-β was used to stimulate pro-fibrotic responses from corneal fibroblasts under halofuginone treatment. The expression of alpha smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) and fibronectin was analyzed by western blots. Phalloidin toxin was used to stain cultures for stress fiber assemblies. Quantitative reverse transcription PCR (qRT-PCR) and immunostaining were used to analyze the expression of type I collagen mRNA and protein, respectively. The expression of Smad2, Smad3, phospho-Smad2, and phospho-Smad3 was determined by western blots. Results: Halofuginone was well tolerated by human corneal fibroblasts up to 10 ng/ml as demonstrated by a cell viability assay. At this concentration, TGF-β-induced expression of the fibrotic markers α-SMA, fibronectin, and type I collagen was significantly reduced. Interestingly, under our experimental conditions, halofuginone treatment led to reduced protein expression of Smad3, which was both dose- and time-dependent. Conclusions: Our results suggest that halofuginone may exert its antifibrotic effects in the cornea via a novel molecular mechanism and may be used as an antifibrotic agent for corneal fibrosis treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbera52
Pages (from-to)479-487
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular vision
Volume18
StatePublished - Feb 18 2012

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