Mechanical Tension Increases CCN2/CTGF Expression and Proliferation in Gingival Fibroblasts via a TGFβ-Dependent Mechanism
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Unlike skin, oral gingival do not scar in response to tissue injury. Fibroblasts, the cell type responsible for connective tissue repair and scarring, are exposed to mechanical tension during normal and pathological conditions including wound healing and fibrogenesis. Understanding how human gingival fibroblasts respond to mechanical tension is likely to yield valuable insights not only into gingival function but also into the molecular basis of scarless repair. CCN2/connective tissue growth factor is potently induced in fibroblasts during tissue repair and fibrogenesis. We subjected gingival fibroblasts to cyclical strain (up to 72 hours) using the Flexercell system and showed that CCN2 mRNA and protein was induced by strain. Strain caused the rapid activation of latent TGFβ, in a fashion that was reduced by blebbistatin and FAK/src inhibition, and the induction of endothelin (ET-1) mRNA and protein expression. Strain did not cause induction of α-smooth muscle actin or collagen type I mRNAs (proteins promoting scarring); but induced a cohort of pro-proliferative mRNAs and cell proliferation. Compared to dermal fibroblasts, gingival fibroblasts showed reduced ability to respond to TGFβ by inducing fibrogenic mRNAs; addition of ET-1 rescued this phenotype. Pharmacological inhibition of the TGFβ type I (ALK5) receptor, the endothelin A/B receptors and FAK/src significantly reduced the induction of CCN2 and pro-proliferative mRNAs and cell proliferation. Controlling TGFβ, ET-1 and FAK/src activity may be useful in controlling responses to mechanical strain in the gingiva and may be of value in controlling fibroproliferative conditions such as gingival hyperplasia; controlling ET-1 may be of benefit in controlling scarring in response to injury in the skin.