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Elevated transforming growth factor β and mitogen-activated protein kinase pathways mediate fibrotic traits of Dupuytren's disease fibroblasts

Carola Krause12, Peter Kloen3 and Peter ten Dijke1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Molecular Cell Biology and Centre for Biomedical Genetics, Leiden University Medical Center, Einthovenweg 20, 2333 ZC Leiden, The Netherlands

2 Institute for Chemistry and Biochemistry, Freie Universität Berlin, Thielallee 63, D-14195 Berlin, Germany

3 Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Academic Medical Center, Meibergdreef 9, 1100 DD, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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Fibrogenesis & Tissue Repair 2011, 4:14  doi:10.1186/1755-1536-4-14

Published: 28 June 2011



Dupuytren's disease is a fibroproliferative disorder of the palmar fascia. The treatment used to date has mostly been surgery, but there is a high recurrence rate. Transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) has been implicated as a key stimulator of myofibroblast activity and fascial contraction in Dupuytren's disease.


We studied Dupuytren's fibroblasts in tissues ex vivo and in cells cultured in vitro and found increased TGF-β expression compared to control fibroblasts. This correlated not only with elevated expression and activation of downstream Smad effectors but also with overactive extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2)/mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase signalling. Treatment with the TGF-β type I receptor kinase inhibitor SB-431542 and bone morphogenetic protein 6 (BMP6) led to inhibition of elevated Smad and ERK1/2/MAP kinase signalling as well as to inhibition of the increased contractility of Dupuytren's fibroblasts. BMP6 attenuated TGF-β expression in Dupuytren's fibroblasts, but not in control fibroblasts. Platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) expression was strongly promoted by TGF-β in Dupuytren's fibroblasts and was curbed by SB-431542 or BMP6 treatment. High basal expression of phosphorylated ERK1/2 MAP kinase and fibroproliferative markers was attenuated in Dupuytren's fibroblasts by a selective PDGF receptor kinase inhibitor. Cotreatment of Dupuytren's fibroblasts with SB-431542 and the mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase 1 inhibitor PD98059 was sufficient to abrogate proliferation and contraction of Dupuytren's fibroblasts.


Both TGF-β and ERK1/2 MAP kinase pathways cooperated in mediating the enhanced proliferation and high spontaneous contraction of Dupuytren's fibroblasts. Our data indicate that both signalling pathways are prime targets for the development of nonsurgical intervention strategies to treat Dupuytren's disease.