Reversal of Sp1 transactivation and TGFβ1/SMAD1 signaling by H2S prevent nickel-induced fibroblast activation

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Nickel as a heavy metal is known to bring threat to human health, and nickel exposure is associated with changes in fibroblast activation which may contribute to its fibrotic properties. H2S has recently emerged as an important gasotransmitter involved in numerous cellular signal transduction and pathophysiological responses. Interaction of nickel and H2S on fibroblast cell activation has not been studied so far. Here, we showed that a lower dose of nickel (200 μM) induced the activation of human fibroblast cells, as evidenced by increased cell growth, migration and higher expressions of α-smooth muscle actin (αSMA) and fibronectin, while high dose of nickel (1 mM) inhibited cell viability. Nickel reduced intracellular thiol contents and stimulated oxidative stress. Nickel also repressed the mRNA and protein expression of cystathionine gamma-lyase (CSE, a H2S-generating gene) and blocked the endogenous production of H2S. Exogenously applied NaHS (a H2S donor) had no effect on nickel-induced cell viability but significantly attenuated nickel-stimulated cell migration and the expression of αSMA and fibronectin. In contrast, CSE deficiency worsened nickel-induced αSMA expression. Moreover, H2S incubation reversed nickel-stimulated TGFβ1/SMAD1 signal and blocked TGFβ1-initiated expressions of αSMA and fibronectin. Nickel inhibited the interaction of Sp1 with CSE promoter but strengthened the binding of Sp1 with TGFβ1 promoter, which was reversed by exogenously applied NaHS. These data reveal that H2S protects from nickel-stimulated fibroblast activation and CSE/H2S system can be a potential target for the treatment of tissue fibrosis induced by nickel.Graphical abstractHighlightsNickel decreases CSE expression and H2S production in human fibroblasts.CSE/H2S system suppresses nickel-induced fibroblast activation.H2S blocks nickel-induced oxidative stress and TGFβ1/SMAD1 signaling.H2S reverses the regulatory role of nickel in Sp1 transactivation.

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