This study investigates the effects of a site-directed TG2-selective inhibitor on the lung myofibroblast phenotype and ECM deposition to elucidate TG2 as a novel therapeutic target in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF)—an incurable progressive fibrotic disease. IPF fibroblasts showed increased expression of TG2, α smooth muscle actin (αSMA) and fibronectin (FN) with increased extracellular TG2 and transforming growth factor β1 (TGFβ1) compared to normal human lung fibroblasts (NHLFs) which do not express αSMA and express lower levels of FN. The myofibroblast phenotype shown by IPF fibroblasts could be reversed by selective TG2 inhibition with a reduction in matrix FN and TGFβ1 deposition. TG2 transduction or TGFβ1 treatment of NHLFs led to a comparable phenotype to that of IPF fibroblasts which was reversible following selective TG2 inhibition. Addition of exogenous TG2 to NHLFs also induced the myofibroblast phenotype by a mechanism involving TGFβ1 activation which could be ameliorated by selective TG2 inhibition. SMAD3-deleted IPF fibroblasts via CRISPR-cas9 genome editing, showed reduced TG2 protein levels following TGFβ1 stimulation. This study demonstrates a key role for TG2 in the induction of the myofibroblast phenotype and shows the potential for TG2-selective inhibitors as therapeutic agents for the treatment of fibrotic lung diseases like IPF.
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Funding: This work was supported by a GSK-CASE Studentship between BBSRC and GlaxoSmithKline to MG.