Mesenchymal stromal cells reverse hypoxia-mediated suppression of α-smooth muscle actin expression in human dermal fibroblasts

Renea A. Faulknor, Melissa A. Olekson, Nir I. Nativ, Mehdi Ghodbane, Andrea J. Gray, François Berthiaume

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


During wound healing, fibroblasts deposit extracellular matrix that guides angiogenesis and supports the migration and proliferation of cells that eventually form the scar. They also promote wound closure via differentiation into α-smooth muscle actin (SMA)-expressing myofibroblasts, which cause wound contraction. Low oxygen tension typical of chronic nonhealing wounds inhibits fibroblast collagen production and differentiation. It has been suggested that hypoxic mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) secrete factors that promote wound healing in animal models; however, it is unclear whether these factors are equally effective on the target cells in a hypoxic wound environment. Here we investigated the impact of MSC-derived soluble factors on the function of fibroblasts cultured in hypoxic fibroblast-populated collagen lattices (FPCLs). Hypoxia alone significantly decreased FPCL contraction and α-SMA expression. MSC-conditioned medium restored hypoxic FPCL contraction and α-SMA expression to levels similar to normoxic FPCLs. SB431542, an inhibitor of transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1)-mediated signaling, blocked most of the MSC effect on FPCL contraction, while exogenous TGF-β1 at levels similar to that secreted by MSCs reproduced the MSC effect. These results suggest that TGF-β1 is a major paracrine signal secreted by MSCs that can restore fibroblast functions relevant to the wound healing process and that are impaired in hypoxia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8-13
Number of pages6
JournalBiochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 27 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


  • Fibroblasts
  • Hypoxia
  • Mesenchymal stromal cells
  • Transforming growth factor-β1


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