VEGF induces stress fiber formation in fibroblasts isolated from dystrophic muscle
Journal of Cell Communication and Signaling
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© 2015, The International CCN Society. Treatment with vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) to reduce ischemia and enhance both endogenous muscle repair and regenerative cell therapy in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) has been widely proposed in recent years. However, the interaction between angiogenesis and fibrosis, a hallmark feature of DMD, remains unclear. To date, it has not been determined whether VEGF exerts a pro-fibrotic effect on DMD-derived fibroblasts, which may contribute to further disease progression. Thus, the purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of exogenous VEGF on fibroblast cultures established from a murine model of DMD. Primary fibroblast cultures were established from gastrocnemius and diaphragm muscles of 10 week-old mdx/utrn+/- mice. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) was employed to assess changes in transcript expression of alpha-smooth muscle actin (Acta2), type-1 collagen (Col1a1), connective tissue growth factor (Ctgf/ccn2) and fibronectin (Fn1). Immunofluorescence and Western blot analysis was further employed to visualize changes in protein expression of alpha-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA), CTGF/CCN2 and fibronectin. mRNA levels of Col1a1, Ctgf/ccn2, and FN did not increase following treatment with VEGF in fibroblasts derived from either diaphragm or gastrocnemius muscles. Acta2 expression increased significantly in diaphragm-derived fibroblasts following treatment with VEGF. Morphological assessment revealed increased stress fiber formation in VEGF-treated fibroblasts compared to the untreated control fibroblasts. The findings from this study suggest that further investigation into the effect of VEGF on fibroblast function is required prior to the utilization of the growth factor as a treatment for DMD.