Abnormal activation of transforming growth factor (TGF)-β is a common cause of fibroblast activation and fibrosis. In bleomycin (BLM)-induced lung fibrosis, the marked expression of phospho-Src homology-2 domain-containing phosphatase (SHP) 2, phospho-signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) 3, and suppressor of cytokine signaling (SOCS) 3 was highly associated with pulmonary parenchymal lesions and collagen deposition. Human pulmonary fibroblasts differentiated into myofibroblasts exhibited activation of SHP2, SOCS3, protein inhibitor of activated STAT1, STAT3, interleukin (IL)-6, and IL-10. The significant retardation of interferon (IFN)-γ signaling in myofibroblasts was revealed by the decreased expression of phospho-STAT1, IFN-γ-associated genes, and IFN-γ-inducible protein (IP) 10. Microarray analysis showed an induction of fibrotic genes in TGF-β1-differentiated myofibroblasts, whereas IFN-γ-regulated anti-fibrotic genes were suppressed. Interestingly, BIBF 1120 treatment effectively inhibited both STAT3 and SHP2 phosphorylation in TGF-β1-differentiated myofibroblasts and BLM fibrotic lung tissues, which was accompanied by suppression of fibroblast-myofibroblast transition. Moreover, the combined treatment of BIBF 1120 plus IFN-γ or SHP2 inhibitor PHPS1 plus IFN-γ markedly reduced TGF-β1-induced α-smooth muscle actin and further ameliorated BLM lung fibrosis. Accordingly, myofibroblasts were hyporesponsiveness to IFN-γ, while blockade of SHP2 contributed to the anti-fibrotic efficacy of IFN-γ.
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