Extracellular matrix remodelling properties of human fibrocytes

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Abstract

The fibrocytes are thought to serve as a source of newly deposited collagens I and III during reparative processes and in certain fibrotic disorders, but their matrix remodelling properties are incompletely understood. We evaluated their ability to produce several extracellular matrix (ECM) components, in comparison with fibroblasts, and to participate in collagen turnover. The collagen gene expression profile of fibrocytes differed from that of fibroblasts because fibrocytes constitutively expressed relatively high levels of the mRNA encoding collagen VI and significantly lower levels of the mRNA encoding collagens I, III and V. The proteoglycan (PG) gene expression profile was also different in fibrocytes and fibroblasts because fibrocytes constitutively expressed the mRNA encoding perlecan and versican at relatively high levels and the mRNA encoding biglycan and decorin at low and very low levels, respectively. Moreover, fibrocytes expressed the mRNA for hyaluronan synthase 2 at higher level than fibroblasts. Significant differences between the two cell populations were also demonstrated by metabolic labelling and analysis of the secreted collagenous proteins, PGs and hyaluronan. Fibrocytes constitutively expressed the scavenger receptors CD163 and CD204 as well as the mannose receptors CD206 and Endo180, and internalized and degraded collagen fragments through an Endo180-mediated mechanism. The results of this study demonstrate that human fibrocytes exhibit ECM remodelling properties previously unexplored, including the ability to participate in collagen turnover. The observed differences in collagen and PG expression profile between fibrocytes and fibroblasts suggest that fibrocytes may predominantly have a matrix-stabilizing function.

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