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alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone suppresses bleomycin-induced collagen synthesis and reduces tissue fibrosis in a mouse mode

Posted Sep 11 2009 4:55pm

By Kokot Agatha and Colleague; Arthritis and rheumatism 2009;60(2):592-603.


OBJECTIVE: Recently, we found that human dermal fibroblasts (HDFs) express melanocortin 1 receptors (MC-1R) that bind alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (alpha-MSH).

In search of novel therapies for scleroderma (systemic sclerosis [SSc]), we used the bleomycin (BLM) model to investigate the effects of alpha-MSH on collagen synthesis and fibrosis.

METHODS: Collagen expression in HDFs was determined by real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and Western blot analyses. Signal transduction studies included pharmacologic blockade, immunofluorescence analysis, Western blotting, and reporter-promoter assays.

Oxidative stress was measured by fluorescence-activated cell sorter analysis, and anti-oxidative enzyme levels were determined by real-time RT-PCR and Western blot analyses. The effect of alpha-MSH in the BLM mouse model of scleroderma was assessed by histologic, immunohistochemical, real-time RT-PCR, and protein analyses.

Expression of MC-1R and pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) in skin and HDF samples from patients with SSc was determined by RT-PCR and compared with that in samples from normal controls.

RESULTS: Treatment with alpha-MSH (and related peptides) suppressed BLM-induced expression of type I and type III collagen in HDFs, and this effect was cAMP-dependent. Neither BLM nor alpha-MSH altered Smad signaling, but antioxidants inhibited BLM-induced collagen expression in vitro. In addition, alpha-MSH suppressed BLM-induced oxidative stress and enhanced the expression of superoxide dismutase 2 (SOD2) and heme oxygenase 1 (HO-1).

In the BLM mouse model, alpha-MSH reduced skin fibrosis and collagen content and increased tissue levels of SOD2 and HO-1. In skin and HDFs from patients with SSc, both MC-1R and POMC messenger RNAs were detected, but there were no differences compared with healthy controls.

CONCLUSION:Alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone and related peptides that exert their effects via MC-1R may provide a novel antifibrogenic therapeutic tool for the treatment of fibrotic diseases such as scleroderma.

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