Members of the early growth response (Egr) gene family of transcription factors have nonredundant biological functions. Although Egr-3 is implicated primarily in neuromuscular development and immunity, its regulation and role in tissue repair and fibrosis has not been studied. We now show that in normal skin fibroblasts, Egr-3 was potently induced by transforming growth factor-β via canonical Smad3. Moreover, transient Egr-3 overexpression was sufficient to stimulate fibrotic gene expression, whereas deletion of Egr-3 resulted in substantially attenuated transforming growth factor-β responses. Genome-wide expression profiling in fibroblasts showed that genes associated with tissue remodeling and wound healing were prominently up-regulated by Egr-3. Notably, <5% of fibroblast genes regulated by Egr-1 or Egr-2 were found to be coregulated by Egr-3, revealing substantial functional divergence among these Egr family members. In a mouse model of scleroderma, development of dermal fibrosis was accompanied by accumulation of Egr-3-positive myofibroblasts in the lesional tissue. Moreover, skin biopsy samples from patients with scleroderma showed elevated Egr-3 levels in the dermis, and Egr-3 mRNA levels correlated with the extent of skin involvement. These results provide the first evidence that Egr-3, a functionally distinct member of the Egr family with potent effects on inflammation and immunity, is up-regulated in scleroderma and is necessary and sufficient for profibrotic responses, suggesting important and distinct roles in the pathogenesis of fibrosis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine