Regulation of cardiac fibroblast MMP2 gene expression by scleraxis
Abstract Remodeling of the cardiac extracellular matrix is responsible for a number of the detrimental effects on heart function that arise secondary to hypertension, diabetes and myocardial infarction. This remodeling consists both of an increase in new matrix protein synthesis, and an increase in the expression of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) that degrade existing matrix structures. Previous studies utilizing knockout mice have demonstrated clearly that MMP2 plays a pathogenic role during matrix remodeling, thus it is important to understand the mechanisms that regulate MMP2 gene expression. We have shown that the transcription factor scleraxis is an important inducer of extracellular matrix gene expression in the heart that may also control MMP2 expression. In the present study, we demonstrate that scleraxis directly transactivates the proximal MMP2 gene promoter, resulting in increased histone acetylation, and identify a specific E-box sequence in the promoter to which scleraxis binds. Cardiac myo-fibroblasts isolated from scleraxis knockout mice exhibited dramatically decreased MMP2 expression; however, scleraxis over-expression in knockout cells could rescue this loss. We further show that regulation of MMP2 gene expression by the pro-fibrotic cytokine TGFβ occurs via a scleraxis-dependent mechanism: TGFβ induces recruitment of scleraxis to the MMP2 promoter, and TGFβ was unable to up-regulate MMP2 expression in cells lacking scleraxis due to either gene knockdown or knockout. These results reveal that scleraxis can exert control over both extracellular matrix synthesis and breakdown, and thus may contribute to matrix remodeling in wound healing and disease. Highlights Scleraxis regulates MMP2 expression in cardiac myo-fibroblasts. Scleraxis binds E-box 6 in the proximal human MMP2 promoter to control transcription. Over-expression of scleraxis increases MMP2 promoter histone acetylation at H3K9. Loss of scleraxis expression results in loss of MMP2 expression. TGFβ-mediated MMP2 expression requires the presence of scleraxis.
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