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posted on 21.06.2021, 04:08 by Francesco Cinetto, Jessica Ceccato, Ilaria Caputo, Daniela Cangiano, Barbara Montini, Francesca Lunardi, Maria Piazza, Carlo Agostini, Fiorella Calabrese, Gianpietro Semenzato, Marcello Rattazzi, Carmela Gurrieri, Riccardo Scarpa, Carla Felice, Fabrizio Vianello

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is mainly characterized by aberrant extracellular matrix deposition, consequent to epithelial lung injury and myofibroblast activation, and inflammatory response. Glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK-3) is a serine–threonine kinase involved in several pathways, and its inhibition has been already suggested as a therapeutic strategy for IPF patients. There is evidence that GSK-3 is able to induce matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) expression and that its inhibition modulates MMP expression in the tissues. The aim of our study was to investigate the role of GSK-3 and its inhibition in the modulation of MMP-9 and -2 in an in vivo mouse model of lung fibrosis and in vitro using different cell lines exposed to pro-inflammatory or pro-fibrotic stimuli. We found that GSK-3 inhibition down-modulates gene expression and protein levels of MMP-9, MMP-2, and their inhibitors TIMP-1 and TIMP-2 in inflammatory cells harvested from bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) of mice treated with bleomycin as well as in interstitial alveolar macrophages and cuboidalized epithelial alveolar cells. To the same extent, GSK-3 inhibition blunted the increased MMP-9 and MMP-2 activity induced by pro-fibrotic stimuli in a human lung fibroblast cell line. Moreover, the αSMA protein level, a marker of fibroblast-to-myofibroblast transition involved in fibrosis, was decreased in primary fibroblasts treated with TGFβ following GSK-3 inhibition. Our results confirm the implication of GSK-3 in lung inflammation and fibrosis, suggesting that it might play its role by modulating MMP expression and activity but also pushing fibroblasts toward a myofibroblast phenotype and therefore enhancing extracellular matrix deposition. Thus, its inhibition could represent a possible therapeutic strategy.

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