Pharmacological targeting of BET proteins inhibits renal fibroblast activation and alleviates renal fibrosis
Epigenetic alterations, such as histone acetylation, regulate the signaling outcomes and phenotypic responses of fibroblasts after growth factor stimulation. The bromodomain and extra-terminal domain-containing proteins (Brd) bind to acetylated histone residues, resulting in recruitment of components of the transcriptional machinery and subsequent gene transcription. Given the central importance of fibroblasts in tissue fibrosis, this study sought to determine the role of Brd proteins in human lung fibroblasts (LFs) after growth factor stimulation and in the murine bleomycin model of lung fibrosis. Using small interfering RNA against human Brd2 and Brd4 and pharmacologic Brd inhibitors, this study found that Brd2 and Brd4 are essential in mediating the phenotypic responses of LFs downstream of multiple growth factor pathways. Growth factor stimulation of LFs causes increased histone acetylation, association of Brd4 with growth factor-responsive genes, and enhanced transcription of these genes that could be attenuated with pharmacologic Brd inhibitors. Of note, lung fibrosis induced after intratracheal bleomycin challenge in mice could be prevented by pretreatment of animals with pharmacologic inhibitors of Brd proteins. This study is the first demonstration of a role for Brd2 and Brd4 proteins in mediating the responses of LFs after growth factor stimulation and in driving the induction of lung fibrosis in mice in response to bleomycin challenge.