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Discoidin domain receptors regulate the migration of primary human lung fibroblasts through collagen matrices

Pedro A Ruiz and Gabor Jarai*

Author Affiliations

Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Respiratory Disease Area, Wimblehurst Road, Horsham, RH12 5AB, UK

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Fibrogenesis & Tissue Repair 2012, 5:3  doi:10.1186/1755-1536-5-3

Published: 15 February 2012



The two discoidin domain receptors (DDRs), DDR1 and DDR2 are receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) with the unique ability among RTKs to respond to collagen. We have previously shown that collagen I induces DDR1 and matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-10 expression through DDR2 activation and a Janus kinase (JAK)2 and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)1/2-mediated mechanism in primary human lung fibroblasts suggesting that these signaling pathways play a role in fibroblast function. Fibroblasts can traverse basement membrane barriers during development, wound healing and pathological conditions such as cancer and fibrosis by activating tissue-invasive programs, the identity of which remain largely undefined. In the present work, we investigated the role of DDRs and DDR-associated signal transduction in these processes.


Transwell migration experiments showed that normal human lung fibroblast (NHLF) transmigration through collagen I-coated inserts is mediated by DDR2 and the DDR2-associated signaling kinases JAK2 and ERK1/2, but not DDR1. Additionally, experiments with specific small interfering (si)RNAs revealed that collagen I-induced expression of MMP-10 and MMP-2 is DDR2 but not DDR1 dependent in NHLFs. Our data showed that collagen I increases NHLF migration through collagen IV, the main component of basement membranes. Furthermore, basal and collagen I-induced NHLF migration through collagen IV-coated inserts was both DDR2 and DDR1 dependent. Finally, DDR2, but not DDR1 was shown to be involved in fibroblast proliferation.


Our results suggest a mechanism by which the presence of collagen I in situations of excessive matrix deposition could induce fibroblast migration through basement membranes through DDR2 activation and subsequent DDR1 and MMP-2 gene expression. This work provides new insights into the role of DDRs in fibroblast function.

collagen I; collagen IV; DDR; fibroblast migration; fibroblast proliferation; MMP