Background Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinase (TIMPs) have been suggested to be involved in the pathogenesis of asthma. Their expression in airway smooth muscle (ASM) cells could be involved in collagen turnover and migration of these cells and thus may contribute to airway remodelling.
Objective To examine the effect of pro-fibrotic growth factors TGF-β and platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) on the expression of MMPs/TIMPs in cultured human ASM cells and to examine the role of MMP in the migration of ASM cells.
Methods ASM cells were stimulated with TGF-β and/or PDGF. Expression and activity of MMP-1, MMP-2, MMP-3, TIMP-1 and TIMP-2 were evaluated by quantitative RT-PCR, Western blot and zymography. Modified Boyden-chamber migration assay was performed to investigate the effect of secreted MMP-3 and TIMP-1 on ASM-cell migration.
Results PDGF strongly up-regulated the expression of MMP-1 at mRNA and protein levels. PDGF, when combined with TGF-β, caused synergistic up-regulation of MMP-3. TIMP-1 was additively up-regulated by TGF-β and PDGF. These growth factors had no effect on the expression of MMP-2 and TIMP-2. U0126, an extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway inhibitor, inhibited the up-regulation of MMP-1 by PDGF. The synergistic/additive up-regulation of MMP-3 and TIMP-1 was inhibited by U0126 and SB431542, a Smad pathway inhibitor. Supernatant from ASM cells in which MMP-3 production was knocked down by RNA interference showed a decreased migratory effect on ASM cells, whereas supernatant from cells with suppressed TIMP-1 expression resulted in increased migration.
Conclusion Our results suggest that PDGF with/without TGF-β could facilitate migration of ASM cells by modification of MMP–TIMP balance through the ERK pathway.