Previous studies described the involvement of extracellular signal-related kinase (ERK) in systemic fibrotic diseases, but the role of ERK in cutaneous scarring is unknown. Although hypoxia drives tissue fibrosis by activating hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α), the specific roles of hypoxia and associated ERK phosphorylation in abnormal fibroblast activity during cutaneous scarring are unclear. Here, we investigated whether pathologic myofibroblast-like keloid fibroblast activity is promoted by hypoxia-induced epithelial–mesenchymal transition mediated by ERK activation. ERK phosphorylation was significantly increased in keloid tissue and fibroblasts. Human dermal fibroblasts cultured under hypoxia (1% O2) expressed phosphorylated ERK and exhibited activation of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling. Hypoxic human dermal fibroblasts showed increased protein and mRNA levels of epithelial–mesenchymal transition markers. Furthermore, administration of an ERK inhibitor (SCH772984) reduced the hypoxia-induced elevation of collagen type I levels in human dermal fibroblasts. Therefore, ERK may be a promising therapeutic target in profibrogenic diseases.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported by a faculty research grant from the Yonsei University College of Medicine (6-2015-0090).
© 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Computer Science Applications
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
- Organic Chemistry
- Inorganic Chemistry