Umbilical cord‑derived mesenchymal stem cells exert anti‑fibrotic action on hypertrophic scar‑derived fibroblasts in co‑culture by inhibiting the activation of the TGF β1/Smad3 pathway
- Xianglong Meng
- Xinxin Gao
- Xinxin Chen
- Jiaao Yu
Affiliations: Department of Burns Surgery, The First Hospital of Jilin University, Changchun, Jilin 130000, P.R. China
- Published online on: January 14, 2021 https://doi.org/10.3892/etm.2021.9642
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A hypertrophic scar (HS) is a severe fibrotic skin disease that causes disfigurement and deformity. It occurs after deep cutaneous injury and presents a major clinical challenge. The present study aimed to evaluate the effects of umbilical cord‑derived mesenchymal stem cells (UCMSCs) on hypertrophic scar fibroblasts (HSFs), one of the main effector cells for HS formation, in a co‑culture system and to investigate the potential underlying molecular mechanism. Cultured HSFs were divided into control and co‑culture groups. The proliferation ability of HSFs was evaluated using cell counting kit‑8 and the percentage of Ki67‑positive fibroblasts was assessed by immunofluorescence. The apoptosis of HSFs was determined using a TUNEL assay and by assessing the expression of capase‑3 via western blotting. A scratch wound healing assay was employed to examine the migration of HSFs. The expression levels of HS‑associated genes (collagen type Iα 2 chain, collagen type IIIα 1 chain and actin α 2 smooth muscle) and proteins (collagen I, collagen III and α‑smooth muscle actin) were measured by reverse transcription‑quantitative PCR (RT‑qPCR) and western blotting, respectively, to assess the pro‑fibrotic phenotype of HSFs. The modulation of the transforming growth factor β1 (TGF β1)/Smad3 pathway in HSFs was evaluated by measuring the protein levels of TGF β1, Smad3 and phosphorylated Smad3 using western blotting, and the mRNA levels of TGFβ1 and several other target genes (cellular communication network factor 2, metalloproteinase inhibitor 1 and periostin) were measured by RT‑qPCR. The proliferative and migratory ability of co‑cultured HSFs was suppressed compared with controls, and no significant difference in apoptosis was observed between the two groups. The pro‑fibrotic phenotype of co‑cultured HSFs was inhibited due to a decline in expression levels of HS‑associated genes and proteins. Furthermore, co‑culture with UCMSCs inhibited the activation of the TGF β1/Smad3 pathway. In conclusion, the present study indicated that UCMSCs may exert an anti‑fibrotic action on HSFs in co‑culture through inhibition of the TGF β1/Smad3 pathway, which suggests a potential use for UCMSCs in HS therapy.