Transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) is known to play a key role in intestinal fibrosis; however, the underlying mechanisms are not well understood. TGF-β signal transduction is through TGF-β receptors, including the TGF-β type 1 receptor. Most cell types contain a TGF-β type 1 receptor form known as activin receptor-like kinase 5 (ALK5), which propagates the signal to the nucleus through the phosphorylation of Smad2 and Smad3 proteins. Therefore, we assessed the effect of the disruption of TGF-β/ALK5/Smad signalling by an ALK5 inhibitor (SD-208) in two experimental animal models of intestinal fibrosis: anaerobic bacteria- and trinitrobenzensulphonic acid-induced colitis. In addition, isolated myofibroblasts were pretreated with SD-208 and exposed to recombinant TGF-β1. Finally, myofibroblasts were transfected with ALK5, Smad2, and Smad3-specific siRNA. Up-regulation of ALK5 and TIMP-1, phosphorylation of Smad2 and Smad3 proteins, and increased intestinal wall collagen deposition were found in both experimental animal models. These effects were decreased by SD-208. TGF-β1 treatment also induced phosphorylation of Smad2 and Smad3 and up-regulation of ALK5 protein, TIMP-1, and α2 type 1 collagen gene expression in isolated myofibroblasts. Again these effects were inhibited by SD-208. Also, ALK5, Smad2, and Smad3 siRNA abolished the induction of TIMP-1 and α2 type 1 collagen. Our findings provide evidence that the TGF-β/ALK5/Smad pathway participates in the pathogenesis of experimental intestinal fibrosis. These data show promise for the development of an effective therapeutic intervention in this condition.
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