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Dysregulated secretion and extracellular activation of TGF-β1 stimulates myofibroblasts to accumulate disordered and stiff extracellular matrix (ECM) leading to fibrosis. Fibronectin immobilizes latent TGF-β-binding protein-1 (LTBP-1) and thus stores TGF-β1 in the ECM. Because the ED-A fibronectin splice variant is prominently expressed during fibrosis and supports myofibroblast activation, we investigated whether ED-A promotes LTBP-1-fibronectin interactions. Using stiffness-tuneable substrates for human dermal fibroblast cultures, we showed that high ECM stiffness promotes expression and colocalization of LTBP-1 and ED-A-containing fibronectin. When rescuing fibronectin-depleted fibroblasts with specific fibronectin splice variants, LTBP-1 bound more efficiently to ED-A-containing fibronectin than to ED-B-containing fibronectin and fibronectin lacking splice domains. Function blocking of the ED-A domain using antibodies and competitive peptides resulted in reduced LTBP-1 binding to ED-A-containing fibronectin, reduced LTBP-1 incorporation into the fibroblast ECM and reduced TGF-β1 activation. Similar results were obtained by blocking the heparin-binding stretch FNIII12-13-14 (HepII), adjacent to the ED-A domain in fibronectin. Collectively, our results suggest that the ED-A domain enhances association of the latent TGF-β1 by promoting weak direct binding to LTBP-1 and by enhancing heparin-mediated protein interactions through HepII in fibronectin. © 2018. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.


Franco Klingberg, Grace Chau, Marielle Walraven, Stellar Boo, Anne Koehler, Melissa L Chow, Abby L Olsen, Michelle Im, Monika Lodyga, Rebecca G Wells, Eric S White, Boris Hinz. The fibronectin ED-A domain enhances recruitment of latent TGF-β-binding protein-1 to the fibroblast matrix. Journal of cell science. 2018 Mar 01;131(5)

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PMID: 29361522

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