Previous reports indicated the significance of the TGF-β signaling in the pathogenesis of systemic sclerosis. We tried to evaluate the possibility that microRNAs (miRNAs) play a part in the type I collagen upregulation seen in normal fibroblasts stimulated with exogenous TGF-β and systemic sclerosis (SSc) fibroblasts. miRNA expression profile was evaluated by miRNA PCR array and real-time PCR. The protein expression of type I collagen was determined by immunoblotting. In vivo detection of miRNA in paraffin section was performed by in situ hybridization. Several miRNAs were found to be downregulated in both TGF-β–stimulated normal fibroblasts and SSc fibroblasts compared with normal fibroblasts by PCR array. Among them, miR-196a expression was decreased in SSc both in vivo and in vitro by real-time PCR or in situ hybridization. In SSc fibroblasts, miR-196a expression was normalized by TGF-β small interfering RNA. miR-196a inhibitor leads to the overexpression of type I collagen in normal fibroblasts, whereas overexpression of the miRNA resulted in the downregulation of type I collagen in SSc fibroblasts. In addition, miR-196a was detectable and quantitative in the serum of SSc patients. Patients with lower serum miR-196a levels had significantly higher ratio of diffuse cutaneous SSc:limited cutaneous SSc, higher modified Rodnan total skin thickness score, and higher prevalence of pitting scars than those without. miR-196a may play some roles in the pathogenesis of SSc. Investigation of the regulatory mechanisms of type I collagen expression by miR-196a may lead to new treatments using miRNA.

Systemic sclerosis (SSc) or scleroderma is an acquired disorder that typically results in fibrosis of the skin and internal organs. Although the pathogenesis of this disease is still unclear, it includes inflammation, autoimmune attack, and vascular damage, leading to the activation of fibroblasts and disturbed interactions with different components of the extracellular matrix (ECM) (1, 2). Thus, abnormal SSc fibroblasts that are responsible for fibrosis may develop from a subset of cells that have escaped from normal control mechanisms (3, 4).

Although the mechanism of fibroblast activation in SSc is presently unknown, many of the characteristics of SSc fibroblasts resemble those of healthy fibroblasts stimulated by TGF-β1 (5, 6). The principal effect of TGF-β1 on mesenchymal cells is its stimulation of ECM deposition. Fibroblasts from affected SSc skin cultured in vitro produce excessive amounts of various collagens, mainly type I collagen, which consists of α1(I) and α2(I) collagen (7, 8), suggesting that the activation of dermal fibroblasts in SSc may be a result of stimulation by TGF-β signaling. This notion is supported by our following recent findings: 1) although the transcriptional activity of the α2(I) collagen gene in SSc fibroblasts was constitutively higher than that in normal fibroblasts, the responsiveness to ectopic TGF-βl was decreased in SSc cells (9); 2) phosphorylated levels and DNA-binding activity of Smad3, a mediator of TGF-β1 signaling, were constitutively upregulated in SSc fibroblasts (10); and 3) the blockade of TGF-β1 signaling with anti–TGF-β1–neutralizing Abs abolished the increased expression of human α2(I) collagen mRNA in SSc fibroblasts (11).

Recently, epigenetics has attracted attention for its involvement in the various cellular behavior, including cell development, cell differentiation, immune response, organogenesis, growth control, and apoptosis. microRNAs (miRNAs), short RNA molecules on average only 22 nt long, are posttranscriptional regulators that bind to complementary sequences in the 3′ untranslated regions (3′UTRs) of mRNAs, leading to gene silencing (1214). Because there are >1000 miRNAs in the human genome, which may target ∼60% of mammalian genes (15), miRNAs are thought to be the most abundant class of regulators. Accordingly, miRNAs have been implicated in the pathogenesis of various human diseases, such as immunological disorders, cancers, and metabolic disorders (1621). However, little is known about the role of miRNAs in SSc. In the current study, we tried to evaluate the possibility that miRNAs may also play some roles in the constitutive upregulation of type I collagen expression seen in SSc.

Human dermal fibroblasts were obtained by skin biopsy from the affected areas (dorsal forearm) of five patients with diffuse cutaneous SSc and <2 y of skin thickening, as described previously (22). Control fibroblasts were obtained by skin biopsies from five healthy donors. Control donors were each matched with SSc patients for age, sex, and biopsy site. Institutional review board approval and written informed consent were obtained according to the Declaration of Helsinki. Primary explant cultures were established in 25-cm2 culture flasks in MEM supplemented with 10% FCS and antibiotic-antimycotic (Invitrogen, Carlsbad, CA). Monolayer cultures independently isolated from different individuals were maintained at 37°C in 5% CO2 in air. Fibroblasts between the third and six subpassages were used for experiments. Before experiments, cells were serum starved for 12–24 h.

Skin samples were obtained from affected skin of 10 SSc patients. Patients were grouped into 5 diffuse cutaneous SSc (dcSSc) and 5 limited cutaneous SSc (lcSSc) according to the classification system proposed by LeRoy et al. (23). Patients with SSc fulfilled the criteria proposed by the American College of Rheumatology (24, 25). Control skin samples were obtained from routinely discarded skin of healthy human subjects undergoing skin graft. Immediately after removal, skin samples were fixed by formalin and embedded in paraffin (26).

Serum samples were obtained from 40 patients with SSc (20 dcSSc and 20 lcSSc). Control samples were collected from 25 healthy age- and sex-matched volunteers. Clinical and laboratory data reported in this study were obtained at the time of serum sampling. All serum samples were stored at −80°C prior to use. Institutional review board approval and written informed consent were obtained before patients and healthy volunteers were entered into this study according to the Declaration of Helsinki.

Heterozygous TSK/+ mice on a C57BL/6 background were purchased from The Jackson Laboratory (Bar Harbor, ME). All mice were housed in a specific pathogen-free barrier facility and sacrificed at 8 wk. The Committee on Animal Experimentation of Kanazawa University Graduate School of Medical Science approved all studies and procedures (27).

In situ hybridization was performed with 5′-locked digoxigenin-labeled nucleic acid probes complementary to human mature miR-196a and scrambled negative control (Exiqon, Vedbeak, Denmark) (28, 29). Briefly, human tissues were deparaffinized and deproteinized with protease K for 5 min. Slides were then washed in 0.2% glycine in PBS and fixed with 4% paraformaldehyde. Hybridization was performed at 50°C overnight, followed by blocking with 2% FBS and 2% BSA in PBS and 0.1% Tween 20 for 1 h. The probe–target complex was detected immunologically by a digoxigenin Ab conjugated to alkaline phospatase acting on the chromogen nitroblue tetrazolium/5-bromo-4-chloro-3-indolyl phosphate (Roche Applied Science, Mannheim, Germany). Slides were counterstained with nuclear fast red, and examined under a light microscope (Olympus BX50, Tokyo, Japan).

Control small interfering RNA (siRNA) and TGF-β siRNA were purchased from Santa Cruz Biotechnology. miRNA inhibitors, mimics, and miScript Target protectors for control or miR-196a were purchased from Qiagen. Lipofectamine RNAiMAX (Invitrogen, Carlsbad, CA) was used as transfection reagent. For reverse transfection, siRNAs, miRNA inhibitors (50 nM), mimics (5 nM), and protectors (500 nM) mixed with transfection reagent were added when cells were plated, followed by the incubation for 48–96 h at 37°C in 5% CO2. Control experiments showed transcript levels for target of miRNA inhibitors to be reduced by >80%, and expression of miRNAs was increased at least 5-fold by the transfection of mimics (data not shown).

Fibroblasts were washed with cold PBS twice and lysed in Denaturing Cell Extraction Buffer (Biosource, Camarillo, CA). Aliquots of cell lysates (normalized for protein concentrations) were subjected to electrophoresis on 10% NaDodSO4-polyacrylamide gels and transferred onto nitrocellulose filters. The nitrocellulose filters were then incubated with Ab against type I collagen, fibronectin, or β-actin. Then the filters were incubated with secondary Ab, and the immunoreactive bands were visualized using an ECL system (Amersham Biosciences, Arlington Heights, IL), according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Levels of type I collagen in cell lysate were measured with enzyme immunoassay (EIA) kit for procollagen type I C-terminal peptide (PIP; Takara Bio, Shiga, Japan). Briefly, anti-PIP mAbs were precoated onto microtiter wells. Aliquots of cell lysate were added to each well, followed by peroxidase-conjugated Abs to PIP. Color was developed with hydrogen peroxide and tetramethylbenzidine peroxidase, and the absorbance at 450 nm was measured. Wavelength correction was performed by absorbance at 540 nm. The concentration of PIP in each sample was determined by interpolation from a standard curve.

miRNA isolation from cultured cells or skin tissue was performed using RT2 qPCR-Grade miRNA Isolation Kit (SA Bioscience) or miRNeasy FFPE kit (Qiagen, Valencia, CA), respectively. miRNAs were reverse transcribed into first-strand cDNA using RT2 miRNA First Strand Kit (SA Bioscience). For RT2 Profiler PCR array, the cDNA was mixed with RT2 SYBR Green/ROX qPCR Master Mix, and the mixture was added into 96-well RT2 miRNA PCR array (SA Bioscience) that includes primer pairs for 88 human miRNAs. PCR was performed on a Takara Thermal Cycler Dice (TP800) following the manufacturer’s protocol. Threshold cycle (Ct) for each miRNA was extracted using Thermal Cycler Dice Real Time System ver2.10B (Takara Bio). The raw Ct was normalized using the values of small RNA housekeeping genes.

For quantitative real-time PCR, primers for miR-196a, U6, or Snord68 (SA Bioscience) and templates were mixed with the SYBR Premix Ex TaqII (Takara Bio). DNA was amplified for 40 cycles of denaturation for 5 s at 95°C and annealing for 30 s at 60°C. Data generated from each PCR were analyzed using Thermal Cycler Dice Real Time System ver2.10B. Transcript levels of miR-196a were normalized to U6 for humans and Snord68 for mice.

miRNA isolation from serum samples was performed with miRNeasy RNA isolation kit (Qiagen) following the manufacturer’s instructions with minor modification (30). Briefly, 100 μl serum was supplemented with 5 μl 5 fmol/μl synthetic nonhuman miRNA (Caenorhabditis elegans miR-39; Takara Bio) as controls, providing an internal reference for normalization of technical variations between samples. After Qiazol solution (1 ml) was added and mixed well by vortexing, then samples were incubated at room temperature for 5 min. Aqueous and organic phase separation was achieved by the addition of chloroform. The aqueous phase was applied to RNeasy spin column and RNeasy MinElute spin column. miRNA was eluted from the column with nuclease-free water.

cDNA was synthesized from miRNA with Mir-X miRNA First Strand Synthesis and SYBR qRT-PCR Kit (Takara Bio). Quantitative real-time PCR with a Takara Thermal Cycler Dice (TP800) used primers and templates mixed with the SYBR Premix. The sequence of hsa-miR-196a primer was designed based on miRBase (http://www.mirbase.org): 5′-TAGGTAGTTTCATGTTGTTGGG-3′. The primer set was prevalidated to generate single amplicons. DNA was amplified for 40 cycles of denaturation for 5 s at 95°C and annealing for 20 s at 60°C. Data generated from each PCR were analyzed using Thermal Cycler Dice Real Time System ver2.10B (Takara Bio). Specificity of reactions was determined by dissociation curve analysis. The relative gene expression of hsa-miR-196a and cel-miR-39 was calculated by standard curve method. Transcript level of miR-196a was normalized to that of cel-miR-39.

Statistical analysis was carried out with a Student t test or Mann–Whitney U test for comparison of means, and Fisher’s exact probability test for the analysis of frequency. The p values <0.05 were considered significant. This research was approved by the Ethics Committee at Kumamoto University (No.177).

As an initial experiment, to determine which miRNAs were involved in the pathogenesis of SSc, we performed miRNA PCR array analysis, consisting of 88 miRNAs involved in human cell differentiation and development. A mixture of equal amounts of miRNAs from five normal fibroblasts, five normal fibroblasts stimulated with exogenous TGF-β1, and five SSc fibroblasts was prepared, and miRNA expression profile in each cell group was evaluated using the PCR array. There were several miRNAs downregulated in both TGF-β–stimulated normal fibroblasts and SSc fibroblasts compared with normal fibroblasts (Table I; the complete dataset is available at the Gene Expression Omnibus microarray data repository, www. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/geo/, accession number GSE34827). Among them, we focused on miR-196a as the regulator of both α1(I) and α2(I) collagen, according to miRNA target gene predictions using the TargetScan (version 5.1, http://www.targetscan.org/), MiRanda (August 2010 Release, http://www.microrna.org/), DIANAmicroT (version 3.0, http://diana.cslab.ece.ntua.gr/microT/), and PicTar (http://pictar.mdc-berlin.de/), leading programs in the field (3134).

Table I.
Summary of microRNA expression in normal and SSc fibroblasts by PCR array analysis
miRNA NameNSNS + TGF-βSScmiRNA NameNSNS + TGF-βSSc
let-7a −6.69 −4.95 −4.44 miR-132 −1.53 ND 0.38 
let-7b −6.34 −4.77 −4.27 miR-133b 8.39 8.76 8.54 
let-7c −1.05 0.79 1.43 miR-134 −1.23 0.98 1.71 
let-7d 1.17 1.84 2.82 miR-137 0.15 2.17 2.44 
let-7e −2.28 −1.16 −0.39 miR-141 2.75 10.10 5.59 
let-7f 3.58 12.17 6.08 miR-142-3p 4.29 12.96 6.35 
let-7g −3.02 −1.73 −1.09 miR-142-5p 6.10 11.55 8.49 
let-7i −2.34 −1.61 −1.76 miR-146a −1.99 1.31 1.47 
miR-1 9.33 ND 4.77 miR-146b-5p −1.01 2.22 3.53 
miR-7 11.33 5.10 8.30 miR-150 −0.46 1.80 2.63 
miR-9 8.83 ND 6.69 miR-155 0.58 3.24 3.19 
miR-10a −2.85 −1.46 2.37 miR-181a 2.50 ND 0.94 
miR-10b −2.75 −0.31 0.13 miR-182 2.29 6.08 6.64 
miR-15a 1.20 ND 2.44 miR-183 2.66 4.23 9.75 
miR-15b −4.97 −2.57 −1.54 miR-185 1.41 ND 5.23 
miR-16 −6.67 −4.67 −3.29 miR-192 −0.90 5.06 3.44 
miR-17 −1.70 0.08 0.14 miR-194 7.31 6.01 3.03 
miR-18a 2.98 3.23 3.13 miR-195 −5.83 −3.65 −2.64 
miR-18b 5.68 6.15 6.01 miR-196a −2.61 −0.55 5.61 
miR-20a −0.58 −0.51 0.57 miR-205 1.40 4.19 4.43 
miR-20b 4.06 3.63 5.58 miR-206 3.01 6.93 6.69 
miR-21 −9.32 −8.06 −7.14 miR-208a −0.24 2.55 3.50 
miR-22 −1.45 ND −0.83 miR-210 −0.93 1.58 1.51 
miR-23b −5.64 −4.68 −4.41 miR-214 −3.61 −2.33 −1.79 
miR-24 −5.01 −3.72 −4.35 miR-215 7.37 10.67 7.66 
miR-26a −5.35 −4.04 −3.67 miR-218 −1.18 1.25 2.53 
miR-33a 8.38 6.00 7.76 miR-219-5p 9.58 4.40 4.69 
miR-92a −3.00 −1.17 −1.22 miR-222 −0.83 −0.83 −0.29 
miR-93 −0.39 0.19 1.93 miR-223 7.30 3.20 4.73 
miR-96 1.24 ND 3.42 miR-301a 8.71 3.73 9.20 
miR-99a −2.82 −1.27 0.13 miR-302a 8.74 5.61 10.10 
miR-100 −6.65 −4.80 −3.64 miR-302c 8.99 10.85 8.45 
miR-101 0.57 1.64 1.35 miR-345 3.46 3.45 2.71 
miR-103 −0.44 0.45 0.14 miR-370 1.65 4.14 4.33 
miR-106b 0.60 1.44 2.82 miR-371-3p 2.57 4.36 4.63 
miR-122 10.31 ND 11.82 miR-375 −1.84 1.50 1.90 
miR-124 0.01 2.61 2.03 miR-378 11.66 5.06 4.40 
miR-125a-5p −5.13 −3.27 −2.29 miR-424 −3.07 −3.05 −3.06 
miR-125b −9.49 −3.62 −6.21 miR-452 4.82 8.88 5.92 
miR-126 1.83 3.08 5.19 miR-488 7.50 9.06 9.57 
miR-127-5p 9.71 7.52 7.75 miR-498 8.28 8.82 8.00 
miR-128 0.26 3.61 2.80 miR-503 2.26 3.68 4.83 
miR-129-5p −0.70 1.45 1.86 miR-518b 12.04 8.31 7.76 
miR-130a 1.93 6.77 2.89 miR-520g 9.18 13.74 11.03 
miRNA NameNSNS + TGF-βSScmiRNA NameNSNS + TGF-βSSc
let-7a −6.69 −4.95 −4.44 miR-132 −1.53 ND 0.38 
let-7b −6.34 −4.77 −4.27 miR-133b 8.39 8.76 8.54 
let-7c −1.05 0.79 1.43 miR-134 −1.23 0.98 1.71 
let-7d 1.17 1.84 2.82 miR-137 0.15 2.17 2.44 
let-7e −2.28 −1.16 −0.39 miR-141 2.75 10.10 5.59 
let-7f 3.58 12.17 6.08 miR-142-3p 4.29 12.96 6.35 
let-7g −3.02 −1.73 −1.09 miR-142-5p 6.10 11.55 8.49 
let-7i −2.34 −1.61 −1.76 miR-146a −1.99 1.31 1.47 
miR-1 9.33 ND 4.77 miR-146b-5p −1.01 2.22 3.53 
miR-7 11.33 5.10 8.30 miR-150 −0.46 1.80 2.63 
miR-9 8.83 ND 6.69 miR-155 0.58 3.24 3.19 
miR-10a −2.85 −1.46 2.37 miR-181a 2.50 ND 0.94 
miR-10b −2.75 −0.31 0.13 miR-182 2.29 6.08 6.64 
miR-15a 1.20 ND 2.44 miR-183 2.66 4.23 9.75 
miR-15b −4.97 −2.57 −1.54 miR-185 1.41 ND 5.23 
miR-16 −6.67 −4.67 −3.29 miR-192 −0.90 5.06 3.44 
miR-17 −1.70 0.08 0.14 miR-194 7.31 6.01 3.03 
miR-18a 2.98 3.23 3.13 miR-195 −5.83 −3.65 −2.64 
miR-18b 5.68 6.15 6.01 miR-196a −2.61 −0.55 5.61 
miR-20a −0.58 −0.51 0.57 miR-205 1.40 4.19 4.43 
miR-20b 4.06 3.63 5.58 miR-206 3.01 6.93 6.69 
miR-21 −9.32 −8.06 −7.14 miR-208a −0.24 2.55 3.50 
miR-22 −1.45 ND −0.83 miR-210 −0.93 1.58 1.51 
miR-23b −5.64 −4.68 −4.41 miR-214 −3.61 −2.33 −1.79 
miR-24 −5.01 −3.72 −4.35 miR-215 7.37 10.67 7.66 
miR-26a −5.35 −4.04 −3.67 miR-218 −1.18 1.25 2.53 
miR-33a 8.38 6.00 7.76 miR-219-5p 9.58 4.40 4.69 
miR-92a −3.00 −1.17 −1.22 miR-222 −0.83 −0.83 −0.29 
miR-93 −0.39 0.19 1.93 miR-223 7.30 3.20 4.73 
miR-96 1.24 ND 3.42 miR-301a 8.71 3.73 9.20 
miR-99a −2.82 −1.27 0.13 miR-302a 8.74 5.61 10.10 
miR-100 −6.65 −4.80 −3.64 miR-302c 8.99 10.85 8.45 
miR-101 0.57 1.64 1.35 miR-345 3.46 3.45 2.71 
miR-103 −0.44 0.45 0.14 miR-370 1.65 4.14 4.33 
miR-106b 0.60 1.44 2.82 miR-371-3p 2.57 4.36 4.63 
miR-122 10.31 ND 11.82 miR-375 −1.84 1.50 1.90 
miR-124 0.01 2.61 2.03 miR-378 11.66 5.06 4.40 
miR-125a-5p −5.13 −3.27 −2.29 miR-424 −3.07 −3.05 −3.06 
miR-125b −9.49 −3.62 −6.21 miR-452 4.82 8.88 5.92 
miR-126 1.83 3.08 5.19 miR-488 7.50 9.06 9.57 
miR-127-5p 9.71 7.52 7.75 miR-498 8.28 8.82 8.00 
miR-128 0.26 3.61 2.80 miR-503 2.26 3.68 4.83 
miR-129-5p −0.70 1.45 1.86 miR-518b 12.04 8.31 7.76 
miR-130a 1.93 6.77 2.89 miR-520g 9.18 13.74 11.03 

A mixture of equal amounts of microRNAs from five normal fibroblasts (NS), five normal fibroblasts stimulated with TGF-β (NS + TGF-β), or five scleroderma fibroblasts (SSc) was prepared, and miRNA expression profile in each cell group was evaluated using PCR array. The ΔΔCt (the raw Ct value of each miRNA − Ct value of small RNA housekeeping gene) is shown.

The array showed the expression of miR-196a was downregulated in normal fibroblasts stimulated with TGF-β1 (2.06-cycle difference; 4.17-fold change in ΔΔCt method) and SSc fibroblasts (8.22-cycle difference; 298.17-fold change). To confirm the results obtained by miRNA PCR array, we performed quantitative real-time PCR analysis using the specific primer for miR-196a. As expected, miR-196a was decreased in all five normal fibroblasts in the presence of TGF-β and all five SSc fibroblasts (Fig. 1A), and the decrease of miR-196a in these cells was statistically significant (p < 0.05, Fig. 1B). Interestingly, when TGF-β signaling was inhibited by the specific siRNA in SSc fibroblasts (Fig. 1C), real-time PCR revealed that the miR-196a expression was significantly upregulated (Fig. 1D). The recovery of miR-196a expression by TGF-β1 siRNA in SSc fibroblasts suggests that downregulation of miR-196a is due to the stimulation of TGF-β signaling in that cell type, as described above.

FIGURE 1.

Expression levels of miR-196a in normal and scleroderma fibroblasts. (A) Five normal and scleroderma fibroblasts were serum starved for 24 h and incubated in the presence or absence of TGF-β1 (2 ng/ml) for 6 h. Total miRNA was extracted, and the relative level of miR-196a (normalized to U6) in each of normal (NS, white bars) and scleroderma fibroblast (SSc, gray bars) was determined by quantitative real-time PCR, as described in 1Materials and Methods. The values in normal fibroblasts were set at 1. (B) Mean relative transcript levels of miR-196a in normal fibroblast (NS, white bars), normal fibroblasts stimulated with TGF-β (NS + TGF-β, black bars), and scleroderma fibroblasts (SSc, gray bars). The data are expressed as mean ± SE of independent experiments using five NS and five SSc fibroblasts. *p < 0.05 as compared with the value in untreated NS cells (1.0). (C and D) Scleroderma dermal fibroblasts were cultured in 6-well plates and transfected with TGF-β1 siRNA or control siRNA, as described in 1Materials and Methods. Then, relative transcript levels of TGF-β1 (C, normalized to GAPDH) and miR-196a (D, normalized to U6) were determined by real-time PCR. *p < 0.05 as compared with the values in fibroblasts transfected with control siRNA (1.0).

FIGURE 1.

Expression levels of miR-196a in normal and scleroderma fibroblasts. (A) Five normal and scleroderma fibroblasts were serum starved for 24 h and incubated in the presence or absence of TGF-β1 (2 ng/ml) for 6 h. Total miRNA was extracted, and the relative level of miR-196a (normalized to U6) in each of normal (NS, white bars) and scleroderma fibroblast (SSc, gray bars) was determined by quantitative real-time PCR, as described in 1Materials and Methods. The values in normal fibroblasts were set at 1. (B) Mean relative transcript levels of miR-196a in normal fibroblast (NS, white bars), normal fibroblasts stimulated with TGF-β (NS + TGF-β, black bars), and scleroderma fibroblasts (SSc, gray bars). The data are expressed as mean ± SE of independent experiments using five NS and five SSc fibroblasts. *p < 0.05 as compared with the value in untreated NS cells (1.0). (C and D) Scleroderma dermal fibroblasts were cultured in 6-well plates and transfected with TGF-β1 siRNA or control siRNA, as described in 1Materials and Methods. Then, relative transcript levels of TGF-β1 (C, normalized to GAPDH) and miR-196a (D, normalized to U6) were determined by real-time PCR. *p < 0.05 as compared with the values in fibroblasts transfected with control siRNA (1.0).

Close modal

As described above, the expression of both α1(I) and α2(I) collagen protein was increased in SSc fibroblasts as well as normal fibroblasts stimulated with TGF-β, compared with untreated normal fibroblasts (Fig. 2A). Next, we determined the contribution of downregulated miR-196a to the upregulation of type I collagen in TGF-β–treated normal fibroblasts and SSc fibroblasts, using miRNA inhibitor and mimic: miRNA inhibitor is chemically synthesized, ssRNA, which has complementary sequence of the target miRNA, and specifically inhibits the target miRNA by the transfection into cells. miRNA mimic is also chemically synthesized RNA that mimics mature endogenous miRNA. The downregulation of miR-196a by the transfection of specific miRNA inhibitor in normal fibroblasts resulted in statistically significant increase of protein expression of α1(I) and α2(I) collagen (Fig. 2B). In contrast, the overexpression of miR-196a using miR-196a mimic normalized the upregulated type I collagen expression in SSc fibroblasts (Fig. 2C). Fibronectin, another ECM that is also increased in SSc and induced by TGF-β stimulation (35, 36), but not the target of miR-196a, was not affected by the miRNA inhibitor or mimic (Fig. 2B, 2C), suggesting that the effect of miR-196a inhibitor or mimic is specific to type I collagen. These results indicated the possibility that α1(I) and α2(I) collagen is the target of miR-196a. The inducible or suppressive effect of miR-196a inhibitor or mimic on the collagen expression was confirmed by the EIA experiment determining PIP (Fig. 2D).

FIGURE 2.

miR-196a regulates type I collagen expression in vitro. (A) Upper panel, Normal (NS) and scleroderma (SSc) fibroblasts were cultured independently under the same conditions until they were confluent, and serum starved for 24 h. Then cells were incubated in the presence or absence of TGF-β1 (2 ng/ml) for additional 24 h. Cell lysates were subjected to immunoblotting with Ab for type I collagen. The same membrane was reprobed with anti–β-actin Ab as a loading control. The representative results for five normal and SSc fibroblasts are shown. Molecular mass of marker proteins is shown on the right. Lower panel, α1(I) collagen (white bars) and α2(I) collagen (black bars) protein levels quantitated by scanning densitometry and corrected for the levels of β-actin in the same samples are shown relative to the level in normal fibroblast (1.0). The data are expressed as mean ± SE of three independent experiments. *p < 0.05 as compared with the value in normal cells. (B) Upper panel, Normal human fibroblasts at a density of 2 × 104 cells/well in 24-well culture plates were transfected with control inhibitor or miR-196a inhibitor for 96 h. Cell lysates were subjected to immunoblotting using Ab for type I collagen, fibronectin, and β-actin. Lower panel, α1(I) collagen (white bars) and α2(I) collagen (black bars) protein levels quantitated by scanning densitometry and corrected for the levels of β-actin in the same samples are shown relative to the level in cells transfected with control inhibitor (1.0). The data are expressed as mean ± SE of three independent experiments. *p < 0.05 as compared with the value in cells with control inhibitor. (C) SSc fibroblasts at a density of 2 × 104 cells/well in 24-well culture plates were transfected with control miRNA or miR-196a mimic for 96 h. Cell lysates were subjected to immunoblotting, and the protein levels were quantitated, as described in (B). (D) Left panel, Normal human fibroblasts at a density of 2 × 104 cells/well in 24-well culture plates were transfected with control inhibitor or miR-196a inhibitor for 96 h. Cell lysates were subjected to EIA experiment, as described in 1Materials and Methods. Type I collagen protein levels are shown relative to the level in cells transfected with control inhibitor (1.0). The data are expressed as mean ± SE of independent experiments using five NS fibroblasts. *p < 0.05 as compared with the value in cells with control inhibitor. Right panel, SSc fibroblasts at a density of 2 × 104 cells/well in 24-well culture plates were transfected with control mimic or miR-196a mimic for 96 h. Cell lysates were subjected to EIA experiment described in 1Materials and Methods. (E) Normal fibroblasts at a density of 2 × 104 cells/well in 24-well culture plates were transfected with control or specific miScript protector for the miR-196a binding site on α1(I) and α2(I) collagen for 48 h. Then cells were incubated in the presence or absence of TGF-β1 (2 ng/ml) for additional 24 h. Cell lysates were subjected to immunoblotting, and the protein levels were quantitated, as described in (B). (F) Normal fibroblasts at a density of 2 × 104 cells/well in 24-well culture plates were transfected with control or miR-196a inhibitor in the presence of miScript Target protector for the miR-196a binding site on α(I) and α2(I) collagen for 96 h. Cell lysates were subjected to immunoblotting, and the protein levels were quantitated, as described in (B).

FIGURE 2.

miR-196a regulates type I collagen expression in vitro. (A) Upper panel, Normal (NS) and scleroderma (SSc) fibroblasts were cultured independently under the same conditions until they were confluent, and serum starved for 24 h. Then cells were incubated in the presence or absence of TGF-β1 (2 ng/ml) for additional 24 h. Cell lysates were subjected to immunoblotting with Ab for type I collagen. The same membrane was reprobed with anti–β-actin Ab as a loading control. The representative results for five normal and SSc fibroblasts are shown. Molecular mass of marker proteins is shown on the right. Lower panel, α1(I) collagen (white bars) and α2(I) collagen (black bars) protein levels quantitated by scanning densitometry and corrected for the levels of β-actin in the same samples are shown relative to the level in normal fibroblast (1.0). The data are expressed as mean ± SE of three independent experiments. *p < 0.05 as compared with the value in normal cells. (B) Upper panel, Normal human fibroblasts at a density of 2 × 104 cells/well in 24-well culture plates were transfected with control inhibitor or miR-196a inhibitor for 96 h. Cell lysates were subjected to immunoblotting using Ab for type I collagen, fibronectin, and β-actin. Lower panel, α1(I) collagen (white bars) and α2(I) collagen (black bars) protein levels quantitated by scanning densitometry and corrected for the levels of β-actin in the same samples are shown relative to the level in cells transfected with control inhibitor (1.0). The data are expressed as mean ± SE of three independent experiments. *p < 0.05 as compared with the value in cells with control inhibitor. (C) SSc fibroblasts at a density of 2 × 104 cells/well in 24-well culture plates were transfected with control miRNA or miR-196a mimic for 96 h. Cell lysates were subjected to immunoblotting, and the protein levels were quantitated, as described in (B). (D) Left panel, Normal human fibroblasts at a density of 2 × 104 cells/well in 24-well culture plates were transfected with control inhibitor or miR-196a inhibitor for 96 h. Cell lysates were subjected to EIA experiment, as described in 1Materials and Methods. Type I collagen protein levels are shown relative to the level in cells transfected with control inhibitor (1.0). The data are expressed as mean ± SE of independent experiments using five NS fibroblasts. *p < 0.05 as compared with the value in cells with control inhibitor. Right panel, SSc fibroblasts at a density of 2 × 104 cells/well in 24-well culture plates were transfected with control mimic or miR-196a mimic for 96 h. Cell lysates were subjected to EIA experiment described in 1Materials and Methods. (E) Normal fibroblasts at a density of 2 × 104 cells/well in 24-well culture plates were transfected with control or specific miScript protector for the miR-196a binding site on α1(I) and α2(I) collagen for 48 h. Then cells were incubated in the presence or absence of TGF-β1 (2 ng/ml) for additional 24 h. Cell lysates were subjected to immunoblotting, and the protein levels were quantitated, as described in (B). (F) Normal fibroblasts at a density of 2 × 104 cells/well in 24-well culture plates were transfected with control or miR-196a inhibitor in the presence of miScript Target protector for the miR-196a binding site on α(I) and α2(I) collagen for 96 h. Cell lysates were subjected to immunoblotting, and the protein levels were quantitated, as described in (B).

Close modal

Furthermore, because the construct of 3′UTR of type I collagen for reporter assay was not available, to determine the direct interaction between miR-196a with α1(I) or α2(I) collagen 3′UTR, we used miScript Target Protector (Qiagen), ssRNA complementary to the miR-196a binding site on the collagen mRNA: the protector covers the flanking region of the binding site and specifically interferes with the direct interaction between miRNA and mRNA (http://www.qiagen.com/products/miscripttargetprotectors.aspx) (37). As shown in Fig. 2E, transfection of the miR-196a protector resulted in the upregulation of type I collagen expression, but not fibronectin, suggesting the direct interaction between miR-196a and collagen 3′UTR. Furthermore, in the presence of miR-196a protector, TGF-β1 could not increase the collagen expression, probably because the binding of miR-196a to collagen 3′UTR was already inhibited by the protector and TGF-β1–mediated downregulation of miR-196a had no effect on the collagen expression. Consistent with this, cotransfection of the 196a protector blocked the miR-196a inhibitor-mediated upregulation of α1(I) and α2(I) collagen (Fig. 2F). Taken together, miR-196a may directly contribute to the constitutively upregulated type I collagen expression in SSc fibroblasts.

We then tried to determine the role of miR-196a in tissue fibrosis in vivo. Histopathologically, compared with normal tissue (Fig. 3A, 3B), SSc skin is characterized by dermal fibrosis due to thickened and increased collagen fibers (Fig. 3C, 3D). In situ hybridization showed that signal for miR-196a was evident in fibroblasts of normal skin (Fig. 3E, 3F), but hardly detected in SSc fibroblasts between the thickened collagen bundles (Fig. 3G, 3H). Actually, the number of miR-196a–positive nuclei by in situ hybridization was significantly decreased in SSc skin (Fig. 3I). In addition, we performed quantitative analysis of the miR-196a expression in normal and SSc skin. Compared with five normal skin, four of the five lcSSc skin and all five dcSSc skin showed decreased miR-196a expression (Fig. 3J), and the decrease of miR-196a in dcSSc skin was statistically significant compared with the value in normal skin (Fig. 3K), which is consistent with in vitro result (Fig. 1A, 1B). Also, to further investigate the miR-196a expression in vivo, miRNA was purified from the skin, liver, or serum of TSK mice, the animal fibrotic skin model: in the TSK mice skin, collagen expression is reported to be upregulated (3840). Consistent with this, real-time PCR revealed that mean miR-196a levels in the skin of TSK mouse were significantly lower than those in wild-type mice (p < 0.05, Fig. 3L). In contrast, the miR-196a expression in the liver and serum was also slightly decreased in TSK mice compared with wild type, but not significant. Therefore, both in vitro and in vivo, the expression of miR-196a was likely to be decreased in fibrotic skin.

FIGURE 3.

In vivo expression of miR-196a in SSc. (AD) H&E staining of normal skin (A, B) and SSc skin (C, D). Original magnification ×40 (A, C), ×400 (B, D). (EH) In situ detection of miR-196a in paraffin-embedded, formalin-fixed tissues of normal skin (E, F) and SSc skin (G, H). Nucleus was counterstained with nuclear fast red. The miR-196a stained blue. The dermal fibroblasts are indicated by arrows. Original magnification ×40 (E, G), ×800 (F, H). Representative result of three normal and three SSc skin is shown. (I) The number of miR-196a–positive nuclei by in situ hybridization was counted at five high-power fields (original magnification ×400) in the skin specimens from three normal and three SSc skin. *p < 0.05 as compared with the values in normal skin. (J) The levels of miR-196a expression in each tissue of five healthy control (HC, white bars), five lcSSc (gray bars), and five dcSSc (black bars) were determined by real-time PCR, as described in 1Materials and Methods. The transcript levels in samples from healthy controls were set at 1. (K) Mean relative transcript levels of miR-196a in tissues from five healthy control (HC, white bars), five lcSSc (gray bars), and five dcSSc (black bars). The data are expressed as mean ± SE. *p < 0.05 as compared with the value in samples from HC (1.0). (L) Total miRNA was extracted from the skin, liver, and serum of three TSK mice (TSK, black bars) and three wild-type mice (WT, white bars), and relative transcript levels of miR-196a (normalized to Snord68) were determined by real-time PCR, as described in 1Materials and Methods. *p < 0.05, as compared with the values in samples from WT mice (1.0).

FIGURE 3.

In vivo expression of miR-196a in SSc. (AD) H&E staining of normal skin (A, B) and SSc skin (C, D). Original magnification ×40 (A, C), ×400 (B, D). (EH) In situ detection of miR-196a in paraffin-embedded, formalin-fixed tissues of normal skin (E, F) and SSc skin (G, H). Nucleus was counterstained with nuclear fast red. The miR-196a stained blue. The dermal fibroblasts are indicated by arrows. Original magnification ×40 (E, G), ×800 (F, H). Representative result of three normal and three SSc skin is shown. (I) The number of miR-196a–positive nuclei by in situ hybridization was counted at five high-power fields (original magnification ×400) in the skin specimens from three normal and three SSc skin. *p < 0.05 as compared with the values in normal skin. (J) The levels of miR-196a expression in each tissue of five healthy control (HC, white bars), five lcSSc (gray bars), and five dcSSc (black bars) were determined by real-time PCR, as described in 1Materials and Methods. The transcript levels in samples from healthy controls were set at 1. (K) Mean relative transcript levels of miR-196a in tissues from five healthy control (HC, white bars), five lcSSc (gray bars), and five dcSSc (black bars). The data are expressed as mean ± SE. *p < 0.05 as compared with the value in samples from HC (1.0). (L) Total miRNA was extracted from the skin, liver, and serum of three TSK mice (TSK, black bars) and three wild-type mice (WT, white bars), and relative transcript levels of miR-196a (normalized to Snord68) were determined by real-time PCR, as described in 1Materials and Methods. *p < 0.05, as compared with the values in samples from WT mice (1.0).

Close modal

We also determined serum concentration of miR-196a in SSc patients and evaluated the possibility that serum miR-196a levels can be a disease marker.

There has been no report demonstrating the expression of miR-196a in cell-free body fluid. To validate that the miRNA is indeed detectable in human serum, miRNA was extracted from sera of healthy individual, and the level of miR-196a was determined by quantitative real-time PCR using primer set specific for miR-196a (Fig. 4A). The amplification of miR-196a was observed, and Ct values were increased by the serial dilution of the miRNA. Thus, miR-196a was thought to be detectable and quantitative in the serum using our method.

FIGURE 4.

Serum miR-196a levels in patients with dcSSc or lcSSc and healthy control subjects (HC). (A) miR-196a is present in serum sample. Serial dilution of cDNA (10-fold dilution, 100-fold dilution, 1000-fold dilution, and water) synthesized from serum-derived miRNA was used as template for real-time PCR, as described in 1Materials and Methods. Amplification curves of gene-specific transcripts are shown to illustrate the process of exponential increase of fluorescence. Horizontal dotted line indicates the threshold. (B) Serum miR-196a levels (normalized to cel-miR-39) were measured by quantitative real-time PCR. miR-196a concentrations are shown on the ordinate. Bars show means. The maximum value in the healthy controls (HC) was set at 1.

FIGURE 4.

Serum miR-196a levels in patients with dcSSc or lcSSc and healthy control subjects (HC). (A) miR-196a is present in serum sample. Serial dilution of cDNA (10-fold dilution, 100-fold dilution, 1000-fold dilution, and water) synthesized from serum-derived miRNA was used as template for real-time PCR, as described in 1Materials and Methods. Amplification curves of gene-specific transcripts are shown to illustrate the process of exponential increase of fluorescence. Horizontal dotted line indicates the threshold. (B) Serum miR-196a levels (normalized to cel-miR-39) were measured by quantitative real-time PCR. miR-196a concentrations are shown on the ordinate. Bars show means. The maximum value in the healthy controls (HC) was set at 1.

Close modal

Serum samples were obtained from 40 patients with SSc (9 men and 31 women); 20 patients had dcSSc, and 20 patients had lcSSc. Twenty-five healthy subjects were also included in this study. There was no statistically significant difference between healthy control subjects and SSc patients (p = 0.90 by Mann–Whitney U test, Fig. 4B). However, by the analysis of the association between miR-196a levels and the clinical or laboratory features, we found that patients with lower miR-196a levels had significantly higher ratio of dcSSc:lcSSc (16:6 versus 4:14, p < 0.05) and significantly higher modified Rodnan total skin thickness score (MRSS) (15.9 versus 7.7, p < 0.05) than those without (Table II). Also, the patients with lower miR-196a levels were accompanied with pitting scars at the significantly higher prevalence than those without (70.6% versus 25.0%, p < 0.05).

Table II.
Correlation of serum miR-196a levels with clinical and serological features in SSc patients
Clinical and Serological FeaturesPatients with Normal miR-196a Levels (n = 18)Patients with Lower miR-196a Levels (n = 22)
Age at onset (year) 63.4 56.5 
Duration of disease (month) 48.5 64.8 
Type (diffuse: limited) 4:14 16:6* 
MRSS (point) 7.7 15.9* 
Clinical features   
 Pitting scars/ulcers 25.0 70.6* 
 Nailfold bleeding 60.0 33.3 
 Raynoud’s phenomenon 100 84.2 
 Telangiectasia 40.0 35.3 
 Contracture of phalanges 100 88.9 
 Calcinosis 
 Diffuse pigmentation 33.3 57.1 
 Short SF 80.0 80.0 
 Sicca symptoms 50.0 70.0 
Organ involvement   
 Pulmonary fibrosis 37.5 40.0 
 Mean %VC 94.7 92.6 
 Mean %DLCO 78.6 75.9 
 Pulmonary hypertension 55.5 54.5 
 Esophagus 7.1 31.5 
 Heart 40.0 50.0 
 Kidney 6.7 
 Joint 27.7 13.6 
ANA specificity   
 Anti-topo I 33.3 27.2 
 Anti-centromere 66.6 40.0 
 Anti-U1 RNP 11.1 9.1 
Clinical and Serological FeaturesPatients with Normal miR-196a Levels (n = 18)Patients with Lower miR-196a Levels (n = 22)
Age at onset (year) 63.4 56.5 
Duration of disease (month) 48.5 64.8 
Type (diffuse: limited) 4:14 16:6* 
MRSS (point) 7.7 15.9* 
Clinical features   
 Pitting scars/ulcers 25.0 70.6* 
 Nailfold bleeding 60.0 33.3 
 Raynoud’s phenomenon 100 84.2 
 Telangiectasia 40.0 35.3 
 Contracture of phalanges 100 88.9 
 Calcinosis 
 Diffuse pigmentation 33.3 57.1 
 Short SF 80.0 80.0 
 Sicca symptoms 50.0 70.0 
Organ involvement   
 Pulmonary fibrosis 37.5 40.0 
 Mean %VC 94.7 92.6 
 Mean %DLCO 78.6 75.9 
 Pulmonary hypertension 55.5 54.5 
 Esophagus 7.1 31.5 
 Heart 40.0 50.0 
 Kidney 6.7 
 Joint 27.7 13.6 
ANA specificity   
 Anti-topo I 33.3 27.2 
 Anti-centromere 66.6 40.0 
 Anti-U1 RNP 11.1 9.1 

Unless indicated, values are percentages.

*

p < 0.05 versus patients with normal serum miR-196a levels using Fisher’s exact probability test or Mann–Whitney U test.

ANA, anti-nuclear Ab; anti-centromere, anti-centromere Ab; anti-topo I, anti-topoisomerase I Ab; DLCO, diffusion capacity for carbon monooxidase; RNP, ribonucleoprotein; SF, sublingual frenulum; VC, vital capacity.

This study demonstrated the role of miR-196a in type I collagen expression and its contribution to the pathogenesis of SSc by three major findings.

First, we identified several overexpressed or suppressed miRNAs specifically in SSc fibroblasts as well as TGF-β–stimulated normal fibroblasts, compared with untreated normal fibroblasts by miRNA PCR array consisting of 88 miRNAs involved in human cell differentiation and development. We focused on miR-196a as the regulator of both α1(I) and α2(I) collagen. Although the expression of miR-196a has been evaluated in glioblastoma and breast cancer (41, 42), to our knowledge our study is the first to demonstrate the expression of miR-196a in autoimmune diseases, including SSc.

Second, in this study, we also found the new miRNA–target interactions in dermal fibroblasts: downregulated miR-196a leads to the overexpression of type I collagen in normal fibroblasts, whereas overexpression of the miRNA resulted in the downregulation of type I collagen in SSc fibroblasts. Also, our results suggest exogenous TGF-β stimulation upregulated type I collagen expression via miR-196a downregulation in normal fibroblasts, at least partly. Although Smad proteins are known to be key intermediates in the TGF-β signaling process, recent reports have identified other pathways, including protein kinase C-δ, phosphatidylcholine-specific phospholipase C, geranylgeranyl transferase I, or p38 MAPK, as the participants in the regulation of various ECM expressions by TGF-β family (43, 44). miR-196a may also be one of such downstream targets to mediate the effect of TGF-β. The downregulation of miR-196a seen in SSc fibroblasts may result from activated endogenous TGF-β signaling, and may play a role in the constitutive upregulation of type I collagen in these cells.

Recently, Maurer et al. (45) have reported that downregulation of miR-29a contributes to the ECM overexpression in SSc fibroblasts. Our study supports the idea that miRNAs are involved in the pathogenesis of SSc. Furthermore, we investigated tissue and serum miRNA levels in SSc. To our knowledge, this is the first report showing that miR-196a is detectable and quantitative in the serum using our method. Our results indicate that SSc patients with lower serum miR-196a levels had significantly higher ratio of dcSSc:lcSSc, significantly higher MRSS, and significantly higher prevalence of pitting scar. Thus, serum miR-196a levels can be a disease marker, reflecting the activity of type I collagen production. However, we could not find statistically significant difference in serum miR-196a levels between SSc patients and healthy controls. This may be because of the small number of patients. Larger studies are needed in the future.

In conclusion, SSc may be the good model for tissue fibrosis. There are thought to be so many factors regulating the fibrotic process in SSc, and miR-196a may also play some roles in the pathogenesis of this disease. Investigation of the regulatory mechanisms of collagen expression by miRNAs may lead to new treatments using miRNA by the transfection into the fibrotic lesion.

We thank Junko Suzuki, Chiemi Shiotsu, Tomomi Etoh, and F.C. Muchemwa for valuable technical assistance.

This work was supported in part by a grant for scientific research from the Japanese Ministry of Education, Science, Sports, and Culture and by a grant for project research on intractable diseases from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare.

Abbreviations used in this article:

Ct

threshold cycle

dcSSc

diffuse cutaneous systemic sclerosis

ECM

extracellular matrix

EIA

enzyme immunoassay

lcSSc

limited cutaneous systemic sclerosis

miRNA

microRNA

MRSS

modified Rodnan total skin thickness

PIP

procollagen type I C-terminal peptide

siRNA

small interfering RNA

SSc

systemic sclerosis

UTR

untranslated region.

1
Korn
J. H.
1989
.
Immunologic aspects of scleroderma.
Curr. Opin. Rheumatol.
1
:
479
484
.
2
Mauch
C.
,
Kreig
T.
.
1990
.
Fibroblast-matrix interactions and their role in the pathogenesis of fibrosis.
Rheum. Dis. Clin. North Am.
16
:
93
107
.
3
Mauch
C.
,
Kozlowska
E.
,
Eckes
B.
,
Krieg
T.
.
1992
.
Altered regulation of collagen metabolism in scleroderma fibroblasts grown within three-dimensional collagen gels.
Exp. Dermatol.
1
:
185
190
.
4
Jelaska
A.
,
Arakawa
M.
,
Broketa
G.
,
Korn
J. H.
.
1996
.
Heterogeneity of collagen synthesis in normal and systemic sclerosis skin fibroblasts: increased proportion of high collagen-producing cells in systemic sclerosis fibroblasts.
Arthritis Rheum.
39
:
1338
1346
.
5
Massagué
J.
1990
.
The transforming growth factor-beta family.
Annu. Rev. Cell Biol.
6
:
597
641
.
6
Leroy
E. C.
,
Smith
E. A.
,
Kahaleh
M. B.
,
Trojanowska
M.
,
Silver
R. M.
.
1989
.
A strategy for determining the pathogenesis of systemic sclerosis: is transforming growth factor beta the answer?
Arthritis Rheum.
32
:
817
825
.
7
LeRoy
E. C.
1974
.
Increased collagen synthesis by scleroderma skin fibroblasts in vitro: a possible defect in the regulation or activation of the scleroderma fibroblast.
J. Clin. Invest.
54
:
880
889
.
8
Jimenez
S. A.
,
Feldman
G.
,
Bashey
R. I.
,
Bienkowski
R.
,
Rosenbloom
J.
.
1986
.
Co-ordinate increase in the expression of type I and type III collagen genes in progressive systemic sclerosis fibroblasts.
Biochem. J.
237
:
837
843
.
9
Kikuchi
K.
,
Hartl
C. W.
,
Smith
E. A.
,
LeRoy
E. C.
,
Trojanowska
M.
.
1992
.
Direct demonstration of transcriptional activation of collagen gene expression in systemic sclerosis fibroblasts: insensitivity to TGF beta 1 stimulation.
Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun.
187
:
45
50
.
10
Asano
Y.
,
Ihn
H.
,
Yamane
K.
,
Kubo
M.
,
Tamaki
K.
.
2004
.
Impaired Smad7-Smurf-mediated negative regulation of TGF-beta signaling in scleroderma fibroblasts.
J. Clin. Invest.
113
:
253
264
.
11
Ihn
H.
,
Yamane
K.
,
Kubo
M.
,
Tamaki
K.
.
2001
.
Blockade of endogenous transforming growth factor beta signaling prevents up-regulated collagen synthesis in scleroderma fibroblasts: association with increased expression of transforming growth factor beta receptors.
Arthritis Rheum.
44
:
474
480
.
12
Bartel
D. P.
2004
.
MicroRNAs: genomics, biogenesis, mechanism, and function.
Cell
116
:
281
297
.
13
Denli
A. M.
,
Tops
B. B.
,
Plasterk
R. H.
,
Ketting
R. F.
,
Hannon
G. J.
.
2004
.
Processing of primary microRNAs by the microprocessor complex.
Nature
432
:
231
235
.
14
Farh
K. K.
,
Grimson
A.
,
Jan
C.
,
Lewis
B. P.
,
Johnston
W. K.
,
Lim
L. P.
,
Burge
C. B.
,
Bartel
D. P.
.
2005
.
The widespread impact of mammalian microRNAs on mRNA repression and evolution.
Science
310
:
1817
1821
.
15
Friedman
R. C.
,
Farh
K. K.
,
Burge
C. B.
,
Bartel
D. P.
.
2009
.
Most mammalian mRNAs are conserved targets of microRNAs.
Genome Res.
19
:
92
105
.
16
Bostjancic
E.
,
Glavac
D.
.
2008
.
Importance of microRNAs in skin morphogenesis and diseases.
Acta Dermatovenerol. Alp. Panonica Adriat.
17
:
95
102
.
17
Herrera
B. M.
,
Lockstone
H. E.
,
Taylor
J. M.
,
Ria
M.
,
Barrett
A.
,
Collins
S.
,
Kaisaki
P.
,
Argoud
K.
,
Fernandez
C.
,
Travers
M. E.
, et al
.
2010
.
Global microRNA expression profiles in insulin target tissues in a spontaneous rat model of type 2 diabetes.
Diabetologia
53
:
1099
1109
.
18
Kuehbacher
A.
,
Urbich
C.
,
Dimmeler
S.
.
2008
.
Targeting microRNA expression to regulate angiogenesis.
Trends Pharmacol. Sci.
29
:
12
15
.
19
Chen
Y.
,
Gorski
D. H.
.
2008
.
Regulation of angiogenesis through a microRNA (miR-130a) that down-regulates antiangiogenic homeobox genes GAX and HOXA5.
Blood
111
:
1217
1226
.
20
Furer
V.
,
Greenberg
J. D.
,
Attur
M.
,
Abramson
S. B.
,
Pillinger
M. H.
.
2010
.
The role of microRNA in rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases.
Clin. Immunol.
136
:
1
15
.
21
Davidson-Moncada
J.
,
Papavasiliou
F. N.
,
Tam
W.
.
2010
.
MicroRNAs of the immune system: roles in inflammation and cancer.
Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci.
1183
:
183
194
.
22
Ihn
H.
,
LeRoy
E. C.
,
Trojanowska
M.
.
1997
.
Oncostatin M stimulates transcription of the human alpha2(I) collagen gene via the Sp1/Sp3-binding site.
J. Biol. Chem.
272
:
24666
24672
.
23
LeRoy
E. C.
,
Black
C.
,
Fleischmajer
R.
,
Jablonska
S.
,
Krieg
T.
,
Medsger
T. A.
 Jr.
,
Rowell
N.
,
Wollheim
F.
.
1988
.
Scleroderma (systemic sclerosis): classification, subsets and pathogenesis.
J. Rheumatol.
15
:
202
205
.
24
A. T. Masi; Subcommittee for Scleroderma Criteria of the American Rheumatism Association Diagnostic and Therapeutic Criteria Committee.
1980
.
Preliminary criteria for the classification of systemic sclerosis (scleroderma).
Arthritis Rheum.
23
:
581
590
.
25
Hochberg
M. C.
1997
.
Updating the American College of Rheumatology revised criteria for the classification of systemic lupus erythematosus.
Arthritis Rheum.
40
:
1725
.
26
Ihn
H.
,
Sato
S.
,
Fujimoto
M.
,
Kikuchi
K.
,
Igarashi
A.
,
Soma
Y.
,
Tamaki
K.
,
Takehara
K.
.
1996
.
Measurement of anticardiolipin antibodies by ELISA using beta 2-glycoprotein I (beta 2-GPI) in systemic sclerosis.
Clin. Exp. Immunol.
105
:
475
479
.
27
Matsushita
T.
,
Fujimoto
M.
,
Hasegawa
M.
,
Matsushita
Y.
,
Komura
K.
,
Ogawa
F.
,
Watanabe
R.
,
Takehara
K.
,
Sato
S.
.
2007
.
BAFF antagonist attenuates the development of skin fibrosis in tight-skin mice.
J. Invest. Dermatol.
127
:
2772
2780
.
28
Martin
M. M.
,
Buckenberger
J. A.
,
Jiang
J.
,
Malana
G. E.
,
Nuovo
G. J.
,
Chotani
M.
,
Feldman
D. S.
,
Schmittgen
T. D.
,
Elton
T. S.
.
2007
.
The human angiotensin II type 1 receptor +1166 A/C polymorphism attenuates microrna-155 binding.
J. Biol. Chem.
282
:
24262
24269
.
29
Nuovo
G. J.
2008
.
In situ detection of precursor and mature microRNAs in paraffin embedded, formalin fixed tissues and cell preparations.
Methods
44
:
39
46
.
30
Kroh
E. M.
,
Parkin
R. K.
,
Mitchell
P. S.
,
Tewari
M.
.
2010
.
Analysis of circulating microRNA biomarkers in plasma and serum using quantitative reverse transcription-PCR (qRT-PCR).
Methods
50
:
298
301
.
31
Lewis
B. P.
,
Burge
C. B.
,
Bartel
D. P.
.
2005
.
Conserved seed pairing, often flanked by adenosines, indicates that thousands of human genes are microRNA targets.
Cell
120
:
15
20
.
32
John
B.
,
Enright
A. J.
,
Aravin
A.
,
Tuschl
T.
,
Sander
C.
,
Marks
D. S.
.
2004
.
Human microRNA targets.
PLoS Biol.
2
:
e363
.
33
Kiriakidou
M.
,
Nelson
P. T.
,
Kouranov
A.
,
Fitziev
P.
,
Bouyioukos
C.
,
Mourelatos
Z.
,
Hatzigeorgiou
A.
.
2004
.
A combined computational-experimental approach predicts human microRNA targets.
Genes Dev.
18
:
1165
1178
.
34
Krek
A.
,
Grün
D.
,
Poy
M. N.
,
Wolf
R.
,
Rosenberg
L.
,
Epstein
E. J.
,
MacMenamin
P.
,
da Piedade
I.
,
Gunsalus
K. C.
,
Stoffel
M.
,
Rajewsky
N.
.
2005
.
Combinatorial microRNA target predictions.
Nat. Genet.
37
:
495
500
.
35
Rudnicka
L.
,
Varga
J.
,
Christiano
A. M.
,
Iozzo
R. V.
,
Jimenez
S. A.
,
Uitto
J.
.
1994
.
Elevated expression of type VII collagen in the skin of patients with systemic sclerosis: regulation by transforming growth factor-beta.
J. Clin. Invest.
93
:
1709
1715
.
36
Hocevar
B. A.
,
Brown
T. L.
,
Howe
P. H.
.
1999
.
TGF-beta induces fibronectin synthesis through a c-Jun N-terminal kinase-dependent, Smad4-independent pathway.
EMBO J.
18
:
1345
1356
.
37
Long
J. M.
,
Lahiri
D. K.
.
2011
.
MicroRNA-101 downregulates Alzheimer’s amyloid-β precursor protein levels in human cell cultures and is differentially expressed.
Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun.
404
:
889
895
.
38
Jimenez
S. A.
,
Millan
A.
,
Bashey
R. I.
.
1984
.
Scleroderma-like alterations in collagen metabolism occurring in the TSK (tight skin) mouse.
Arthritis Rheum.
27
:
180
185
.
39
Jimenez
S. A.
,
Williams
C. J.
,
Myers
J. C.
,
Bashey
R. I.
.
1986
.
Increased collagen biosynthesis and increased expression of type I and type III procollagen genes in tight skin (TSK) mouse fibroblasts.
J. Biol. Chem.
261
:
657
662
.
40
Hasegawa
M.
,
Matsushita
Y.
,
Horikawa
M.
,
Higashi
K.
,
Tomigahara
Y.
,
Kaneko
H.
,
Shirasaki
F.
,
Fujimoto
M.
,
Takehara
K.
,
Sato
S.
.
2009
.
A novel inhibitor of Smad-dependent transcriptional activation suppresses tissue fibrosis in mouse models of systemic sclerosis.
Arthritis Rheum.
60
:
3465
3475
.
41
Guan
Y.
,
Mizoguchi
M.
,
Yoshimoto
K.
,
Hata
N.
,
Shono
T.
,
Suzuki
S.
,
Araki
Y.
,
Kuga
D.
,
Nakamizo
A.
,
Amano
T.
, et al
.
2010
.
MiRNA-196 is upregulated in glioblastoma but not in anaplastic astrocytoma and has prognostic significance
.
Clin. Cancer Res
.
16
:
4289
4297
.
42
Li
Y.
,
Zhang
M.
,
Chen
H.
,
Dong
Z.
,
Ganapathy
V.
,
Thangaraju
M.
,
Huang
S.
.
2010
.
Ratio of miR-196s to HOXC8 messenger RNA correlates with breast cancer cell migration and metastasis
.
Cancer Res
.
70
:
7894
7904
.
43
Kucich
U.
,
Rosenbloom
J. C.
,
Shen
G.
,
Abrams
W. R.
,
Hamilton
A. D.
,
Sebti
S. M.
,
Rosenbloom
J.
.
2000
.
TGF-beta1 stimulation of fibronectin transcription in cultured human lung fibroblasts requires active geranylgeranyl transferase I, phosphatidylcholine-specific phospholipase C, protein kinase C-delta, and p38, but not erk1/erk2.
Arch. Biochem. Biophys.
374
:
313
324
.
44
Kucich
U.
,
Rosenbloom
J. C.
,
Shen
G.
,
Abrams
W. R.
,
Blaskovich
M. A.
,
Hamilton
A. D.
,
Ohkanda
J.
,
Sebti
S. M.
,
Rosenbloom
J.
.
1998
.
Requirement for geranylgeranyl transferase I and acyl transferase in the TGF-beta-stimulated pathway leading to elastin mRNA stabilization.
Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun.
252
:
111
116
.
45
Maurer
B.
,
Stanczyk
J.
,
Jüngel
A.
,
Akhmetshina
A.
,
Trenkmann
M.
,
Brock
M.
,
Kowal-Bielecka
O.
,
Gay
R. E.
,
Michel
B. A.
,
Distler
J. H.
, et al
.
2010
.
MicroRNA-29, a key regulator of collagen expression in systemic sclerosis.
Arthritis Rheum.
62
:
1733
1743
.

The authors have no financial conflicts of interest.