Apoptosis of fibroblasts may be key for the removal of cells following repair processes. Contraction of three-dimensional collagen gels is a model of wound healing and remodeling. Here two potent inducers of contraction, TGF-β1 and fetal calf serum (FCS) were evaluated for their effect on fibroblast apoptosis in contracting collagen gels. Human fetal lung fibroblasts were cultured in floating type I collagen gels, exposed to TGF-β1 or FCS, and allowed to contract for 5 days. Apoptosis was evaluated using TUNEL and confirmed by DNA content profiling. Both TGF-β1 and serum significantly augmented collagen gel contraction. TGF-β1 also increased apoptosis assessed by TUNEL positivity and DNA content analysis. In contrast, serum did not affect apoptosis. TGF-β1 induction of apoptosis was associated with augmented expression of Bax, a pro-apoptotic member of the Bax/Bcl-2 family, inhibition of Bcl-2, an anti-apoptotic member of the same family, and inhibition of both cIAP-1 and XIAP, two inhibitors of the caspase cascade. Serum was associated with an increase in cIAP-1 and Bcl-2, anti-apoptotic proteins. Interestingly, serum was also associated with an apparent increase in Bax, a pro-apoptotic protein. Blockade of Smad3 with either siRNA or by using murine fibroblasts deficient in Smad3 resulted in a lack of TGF-β induction of augmented contraction and apoptosis. Contraction induced by different factors, therefore, may be differentially associated with apoptosis, which may be related to the persistence or resolution of the fibroblasts that accumulate following injury.
- Gel contraction
- Transforming growth factor-beta
- Wound repair