Connective tissue growth factor/CCN2-null mouse embryonic fibroblasts retain intact transforming growth factor-β responsiveness

Yasuji Mori, Monique Hinchcliff, Minghua Wu, Matthew Warner-Blankenship, Karen M. Lyons, John Varga*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Background: The matricellular protein connective tissue growth factor (CCN2) has been implicated in pathological fibrosis, but its physiologic role remains elusive. In vitro, transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) induces CCN2 expression in mesenchymal cells. Because CCN2 can enhance profibrotic responses elicited by TGF-β, it has been proposed that CCN2 functions as an essential downstream signaling mediator for TGF-β. To explore this notion, we characterized TGF-β-induced activation of fibroblasts from CCN2-null (CCN2-/-) mouse embryos. Methods: The regulation of CCN2 expression was examined in vivo in a model of fibrosis induced by bleomycin. Cellular TGF-β signal transduction and regulation of collagen gene expression were examined in CCN2-/- MEFs by immunohistochemistry, Northern, Western and RT-PCR analysis, immunocytochemistry and transient transfection assays. Results: Bleomycin-induced skin fibrosis in the mouse was associated with substantial CCN2 up-regulation in lesional fibroblasts. Whereas in vitro proliferation rate of CCN2-/- MEFs was markedly reduced compared to wild type MEFs, TGF-β-induced activation of the Smad pathways, including Smad2 phosphorylation, Smad2/3 and Smad4 nuclear accumulation and Smad-dependent transcriptional responses, were unaffected by loss of CCN2. The stimulation of COL1A2 and fibronectin mRNA expression and promoter activity, and of corresponding protein levels, showed comparable time and dose-response in wild type and CCN2-/- MEFs, whereas stimulation of alpha smooth muscle actin and myofibroblast transdifferentiation showed subtle impairment in MEFs lacking CCN2. Conclusion: Whereas endogenous CCN2 plays a role in regulation of proliferation and TGF-β-induced myofibroblast transdifferentiation, it appears to be dispensable for Smad-dependent stimulation of collagen and extracellular matrix synthesis in murine embryonic fibroblasts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1094-1104
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental Cell Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 10 2008


  • Fibroblast
  • Fibrosis
  • TGF-β
  • Type I collagen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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