Several reports have indicated that hypoxia, GLI, and connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) contribute to pulmonary fibrosis in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. We investigated the participation of mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK) kinase 1 (MEKK1)/ MEK1/ERK1/GLI-1/2 and activator protein-1 (AP-1) signaling in hypoxia-induced CTGF expression in human lung fibroblasts. Hypoxia time-dependently increased CTGF expression, which was attenuated by the small interfering RNA (siRNA) of GLI-1 (GLI-1 siRNA) and GLI-2 (GLI-2 siRNA) in both human lung fibroblast cell line (WI-38) and primary human lung fibroblasts (NHLFs). Moreover, GLI-1 siRNA and GLI-2 siRNA attenuated hypoxia-induced CTGF-luciferase activity, and the treatment of cells with hypoxia induced GLI-1 and GLI-2 translocation. Furthermore, hypoxia-induced CTGF expression was reduced by an MEK inhibitor (PD98059), MEK1 siRNA, ERK inhibitor (U0126), ERK1 siRNA, and MEKK1 siRNA. Both PD98059 and U0126 significantly attenuated hypoxia-induced CTGF-luciferase activity. Hypoxia time-dependently increased MEKK1, ERK, and p38 MAPK phosphorylation. Moreover, SB203580 (a p38 MAPK inhibitor) also apparently inhibited hypoxiainduced CTGF expression. The treatment of cells with hypoxia induced ERK, GLI-1, or GLI-2 complex formation. Hypoxia-induced GLI-1 and GLI-2 translocation into the nucleus was significantly attenuated by U0126. In addition, hypoxia-induced ERK Tyr204 phosphorylation was impeded by MEKK1 siRNA. Moreover, hypoxia-induced CTGF-luciferase activity was attenuated by cells transfected with AP-1 site mutation in a CTGF construct. Exposure to hypoxia caused a time-dependent phosphorylation of c-Jun, but not of c-Fos. Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) revealed that hypoxia induced the recruitment of c-Jun, GLI-1, and GLI-2 to the AP-1 promoter region of CTGF. Hypoxia-treated cells exhibited an increase in α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) and collagen production, which was blocked by GLI-1 siRNA and GLI-2 siRNA. Overall, these data implied that the MEKK1/MEK1/ERK1/ GLI-1/GLI-2, and AP-1 pathways mediated hypoxia-induced CTGF expression in human lung fibroblasts. Furthermore, GLI-1 and GLI-2 found to be involved in hypoxia-induced α-SMA and collagen expression.
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