Myeloid Cell-Restricted STAT3 Signaling Controls a Cell-Autonomous Antifibrotic Repair Program

Do NN, Willenborg S, Eckes B, Jüngst C, Sengle G, Zaucke F, Eming SA

J. Immunol. 2018 Jul;201(2):663-674

PMID: 29898959


Myeloid cells can be beneficial as well as harmful in tissue regenerative responses. The molecular mechanisms by which myeloid cells control this critical decision of the immune system are not well understood. Using two different models of physiological acute or pathological chronic skin damage, in this study we identified myeloid cell-restricted STAT3 signaling as important and an injury context-dependent regulator of skin fibrosis. Targeted disruption of STAT3 signaling in myeloid cells significantly accelerated development of pathological skin fibrosis in a model of chronic bleomycin-induced tissue injury, whereas the impact on wound closure dynamics and quality of healing after acute excision skin injury was minor. Chronic bleomycin-mediated tissue damage in control mice provoked an antifibrotic gene signature in macrophages that was characterized by upregulated expression of IL-10, SOCS3, and decorin. In contrast, in STAT3-deficient macrophages this antifibrotic repair program was abolished whereas TGF-β1 expression was increased. Notably, TGF-β1 synthesis in cultured control bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMDMs) was suppressed after IL-10 exposure, and this suppressive effect was alleviated by STAT3 deficiency. Accordingly, coculture of IL-10-stimulated control BMDMs with fibroblasts suppressed expression of the TGF-β1 downstream target connective tissue growth factor in fibroblasts, whereas this suppressive effect was lost by STAT3 deficiency in BMDMs. Our findings highlight a previously unrecognized protective role of myeloid cell-specific STAT3 signaling in immune cell-mediated skin fibrosis, and its regulatory pathway could be a potential target for therapy.

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