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Keywords:

  • carpal tunnel syndrome;
  • subsynovial connective tissue;
  • fibrosis;
  • TGF-β

ABSTRACT

Fibrosis of the subsynovial connective tissue (SSCT) is a predominant feature of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). While the nature of CTS has been extensively studied, little is known about the etiology of this disease. We investigated SSCT tissue from patients with CTS and control subjects using fibrosis arrays and cell culture analysis. Twofold changes in fibrotic gene expression were found in multiple genes from patient SSCT using fibrosis arrays. This data was confirmed via qRT-PCR on a subset of genes; collagen I (Col1), collagen III (Col3), connective tissue growth factor (CTGF), transforming growth factor β (TGF-β), and SMAD3 (P < 0.05) which significantly corroborate the fold changes found in the fibrosis arrays. To further explore the nature of SSCT fibrosis, cells were isolated from patient and control tissue. Col1, Col3, TGF-β, and SMAD3 were highly expressed in patient SSCT fibroblasts as compared to control (P < 0.05). Further, fibrotic genes expression was decreased by inhibiting TGF-β receptor I (TβRI) activity (P < 0.05). TGF-β second messenger SMAD activity was significantly activated in SSCT fibroblasts from patients and this activation was abrogated by inhibiting TβRI signaling (P < 0.05). These findings suggest that blocking TGF-β signaling may be an important therapeutic approach to treating the underlying fibrosis of SSCT in CTS patients. © 2014 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Orthop Res 32:1444–1450, 2014.