Endothelial cells enhance adipose mesenchymal stromal cell-mediated matrix contraction via ALK receptors and reduced follistatin: Potential role of endothelial cells in skin fibrosis

Hanneke N. Monsuur, Lenie J. van den Broek, Pieter Koolwijk, Frank B. Niessen, Susan Gibbs*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Abnormal cutaneous wound healing can lead to formation of fibrotic hypertrophic scars. Although several clinical risk factors have been described, the cross-talk between different cell types resulting in hypertrophic scar formation is still poorly understood. The aim of this in vitro study was to investigate whether endothelial cells (EC) may play a role in skin fibrosis, for example, hypertrophic scar formation after full-thickness skin trauma. Using a collagen/elastin matrix, we developed an in vitro fibrosis model to study the interaction between EC and dermal fibroblasts or adipose tissue-derived mesenchymal stromal cells (ASC). Tissue equivalents containing dermal fibroblasts and EC displayed a normal phenotype. In contrast, tissue equivalents containing ASC and EC displayed a fibrotic phenotype indicated by contraction of the matrix, higher gene expression of ACTA2, COL1A, COL3A, and less secretion of follistatin. The contraction was in part mediated via the TGF-β pathway, as both inhibition of the ALK4/5/7 receptors and the addition of recombinant follistatin resulted in decreased matrix contraction (75±11% and 24±8%, respectively). In conclusion, our study shows that EC may play a critical role in fibrotic events, as seen in hypertrophic scars, by stimulating ASC-mediated matrix contraction via regulation of fibrosis-related proteins.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6714-6722
JournalJournal of Cellular Physiology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018

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