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Matrix metalloproteinase-2 from bronchial epithelial cells induces the proliferation of subepithelial fibroblasts


P. M. Lackie, Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology, Division of Infection Inflammation and Repair, Mail Point 810, Level D, Centre Block, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK. E-mail:


Background In bronchial asthma, subepithelial fibrosis in the conducting airways is associated with increased numbers of subepithelial fibroblasts.

Objective This study examined the hypothesis that MMP-2 from airway epithelial cells induces the proliferation of subepithelial fibroblasts.

Methods Using primary bronchial epithelial cells MMP-2, MT1-MMP and TIMP-2 mRNA expression were assessed by Northern blotting and RT-PCR. Primary bronchial epithelial cells transfected with constructs encoding pro-MMP-2 and MT1-MMP (MMP-14).

Results Transfected cells showed enhanced expression of the appropriate mRNA species by RT-PCR and enhanced MMP-2 or MT1-MMP activity by zymography. Active MMP-2 levels in epithelial supernatants were increased most by cotransfection with pro-MMP-2 and MT1-MMP encoding constructs. By measuring tritiated thymidine incorporation, supernatants from transfected cells were found to enhance DNA synthesis of primary airway fibroblast cultures compared with controls. There was a strong correlation (r = 0.9, P < 0.01) between MMP-2 levels in epithelial cell conditioned media and fibroblast proliferation as indicated by DNA synthesis. The MMP inhibitor 1,10-phenanthroline attenuated the increased proliferation, while the addition of exogenous purified MMP-2 alone also increased fibroblast proliferation.

Conclusions Our results support a role for MMP-2 in mediating cross-talk between epithelial cells and myofibroblasts.

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