Attenuation of fibrosis with selective inhibition of c-Abl by siRNA in systemic sclerosis dermal fibroblasts

Abstract: Cellular abelson (c-Abl), a non-receptor tyrosine kinase, is an important molecule in the pathogenesis of systemic sclerosis. There have been reports of beneficial effects of pharmacological tyrosine kinase inhibitors, such as imatinib mesylate, on fibrosis. However, these inhibitors affect multiple tyrosine kinases including c-Abl, c-kit, and platelet-derived growth factor receptor. The effects of selective inhibition of c-Abl using small interfering RNA (siRNA) on dermal fibrosis have not yet been explored. The aim of this study is to evaluate whether specific inhibition of c-Abl by siRNA can influence the transforming growth factor-b1 (TGF-b1)-induced fibrotic responses. Dermal fibroblasts from systemic sclerosis patients and healthy controls were transfected with c-Abl siRNA. The expression levels of collagen type I, fibronectin, connective tissue growth factor (CTGF), and a-smooth muscle actin (a-SMA) were measured at both the mRNA and protein levels in the absence or presence of TGF-b1 pro-fibrotic cytokine. In healthy dermal fibroblasts, the expression of collagen type 1, fibronectin, a-SMA, and CTGF mRNAs and proteins that were upregulated after stimulation with TGF-b1 was markedly decreased by c-Abl siRNA. Silencing of c-Abl via siRNA efficiently reduced the basal synthesis of collagen type I, fibronectin, a-SMA, and CTGF mRNAs and proteins in systemic sclerosis fibroblasts, but it had no effect on the baseline expression of these genes and proteins in healthy dermal fibroblasts. In conclusion, specific c-Abl gene silencing using siRNA effectively reduced fibrosis-related gene expression. Inhibition of c-Abl by siRNA may be a potential therapeutic approach for fibrotic diseases such as systemic sclerosis. Keywords Systemic sclerosis  siRNA  c-Abl  Fibrosis  Dermal fibroblast