Current progress in understanding the molecular pathogenesis of burn scar contracture
Hypertrophic scars and keloids are characterized by excessive dermal deposition of extracellular matrix due to fibroblast-to-myofibroblast differentiation. Endothelin-1 (ET-1) is primarily produced by vascular endothelial cells and plays multiple roles in the wound-healing response and organ fibrogenesis. In this study, we investigated the pathophysiological significance of ET-1 and involvement of RhoA, a member of the Rho GTPases, in hypertrophic scar/keloid formation. We found that ET-1 expression on dermal microvascular endothelial cells (ECs) in hypertrophic scars and keloids was higher than that in normal skin and mature scars. We also confirmed that ET-1 induced myofibroblast differentiation and collagen synthesis in cultured human dermal fibroblasts through the RhoA/Rho-kinase pathway. Finally, since hypertrophic scar/keloid formation was most prominent in areas exposed to mechanical stretch, we examined how mechanical stretch affected ET-1 secretion in human dermal microvascular ECs, and found that mechanical stretch increased ET-1 gene expression and secretion from ECs. Taken together, these results suggest that dermal microvascular ECs release ET-1 in response to mechanical stretch, and thereby contribute to the formation of hypertrophic scars and keloids through the RhoA/Rho-kinase pathway.