Mechanical regulation of the Cyr61/CCN1 and CTGF/CCN2 proteins: Implications in mechanical stress-associated pathologies

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Cells in various anatomical locations are constantly exposed to mechanical forces from shear, tensile and compressional forces. These forces are significantly exaggerated in a number of pathological conditions arising from various etiologies e.g., hypertension, obstruction and hemodynamic overload. Increasingly persuasive evidence suggests that altered mechanical signals induce local production of soluble factors that interfere with the physiologic properties of tissues and compromise normal functioning of organ systems. Two immediate early gene-encoded members of the family of the Cyr61/CTGF/Nov proteins referred to as cysteine-rich protein 61 (Cyr61/CCN1) and connective tissue growth factor (CTGF/CCN2), are highly expressed in several mechanical stress-related pathologies, which result from either increased externally applied or internally generated forces by the actin cytoskeleton. Both Cyr61 and CTGF are structurally related but functionally distinct multimodular proteins that are expressed in many organs and tissues only during specific developmental or pathological events. In vitro assessment of their biological activities revealed that Cyr61 expression induces a genetic reprogramming of angiogenic, adhesive and structural proteins while CTGF promotes distinctively extracellular matrix accumulation (i.e., type I collagen) which is the principal hallmark of fibrotic diseases. At the molecular level, expression of the Cyr61 and CTGF genes is regulated by alteration of cytoskeletal actin dynamics orchestrated by various components of the signaling machinery, i.e., small Rho GTPases, mitogen-activated protein kinases, and actin binding proteins. This review discusses the mechanical regulation of the Cyr61 and CTGF in various tissues and cell culture models with a special attention to the cytoskeletally based mechanisms involved in such regulation.

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