Background: Fibroblast heterogeneity is recognized, and fibroblasts from diseased tissues, including those of asthmatic subjects, have functional phenotypes that differ from normal tissue. However, progenitor-progeny relationships and the factors that control fibroblast differentiation are poorly defined. Objective: We sought to determine whether IL-4 could alter the functional phenotype of fibroblasts during their differentiation from stem/progenitor cells. Methods: Using a 3-dimensional collagen gel system, we obtained embryoid bodies derived from human embryonic stem cells and recovered spindle-shaped cells consistent with fibroblasts that had differentiated in the presence or absence of IL-4. Results: IL-4-induced fibroblast-like cells were more active in contraction of collagen gels, migration, and production of fibronectin than control (without IL-4) cells. IL-4-induced cells demonstrated less expression of miR-155, which modulated contraction, migration, and fibronectin production. These differences persisted in culture without further addition of IL-4, suggesting the differentiated phenotype might be a permanent alteration. Conclusion: The current study demonstrates that IL-4 induces differentiation of stem/precursor cells into fibroblast-like cells that demonstrate a more fibrogenic phenotype, which is due to reduced expression of miR-155. These findings provide a novel mechanism for the persistent abnormalities in IL-4-related diseases and a novel target to regulate tissue remodeling by fibroblasts.
- Embryonic stem cells, fibroblasts, IL-4, fibrosis, asthma, microRNA
- miR-155, chemotaxis, collagen gel contraction, TGF-β