Systemic sclerosis with multiple nodules: characterization of the extracellular matrix

B3 ECKES KRIEGMoinzadeh P, Agarwal P, Bloch W, Orteu C, Hunzelmann N, Eckes B, Krieg T; Arch Dermatol Res. 2013 Sep;305(7):645-52. doi: 10.1007/s00403-013-1383-0. Epub 2013 Jul 9.


Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is still an enigmatic disease of unknown etiology, although the pathophysiology is thought to be based on vascular alterations as well as immunological and fibrotic processes. Here we present the case of a female patient with diffuse SSc (dSSc), who developed multiple subcutaneous nodules. Histologic evaluation confirmed the diagnosis of nodular scleroderma, a very rare condition. Histological analysis of biopsies was combined with ultrastructural analysis by transmission electron microscopy and immunohistochemistry/immunofluorescence, using antibodies against different collagens and non-collagenous ECM proteins. Collagen fibrils were deposited at very high density in nodules as well as in adjacent extra nodular skin. Within nodules, a large fraction of immature collagen fibrils was detected with smaller and highly variable diameter. Activated fibroblasts were present, however no myofibroblasts were identified. Cartilage Oligomeric Matrix Protein (COMP), collagen XII and fibrillin-1 were all deposited at increased amounts within nodules and their distribution differed markedly from that in healthy skin. The excessive deposition of COMP within nodules closely resembled the distribution of COMP in keloids. Nodules-like keloids-were characterized by lack of myofibroblasts. By virtue of its structural properties and the capacity to avidly bind collagen I and XII, COMP is thought to reorganize and compact the collagen network, leading to a tissue with locally increased biomechanical tension acting on fibroblasts. In addition, COMP may present active TGF? to fibroblasts. Both mechanisms in concert can activate fibroblast proliferation and production of extracellular matrix, resulting in a sustained activation loop.


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