Inhibition of the Proliferation of Human Lung Fibroblasts by Prostacyclin Receptor Agonists is Linked to a Sustained cAMP Signal in the Nucleus

Maxine J. Roberts, Lauren T. May, Alastair C. Keen, Bonan Liu, Terrance Lam, Steven J. Charlton, Elizabeth M. Rosethorne, Michelle L. Halls

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Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is a chronic and progressive fibrotic lung disease, and current treatments are limited by their side effects. Proliferation of human lung fibroblasts in the pulmonary interstitial tissue is a hallmark of this disease and is driven by prolonged ERK signalling in the nucleus in response to growth factors such as platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF). Agents that increase cAMP have been suggested as alternative therapies, as this second messenger can inhibit the ERK cascade. We previously examined a panel of eight Gαs-cAMP-coupled G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) endogenously expressed in human lung fibroblasts. Although the cAMP response was important for the anti-fibrotic effects of GPCR agonists, the magnitude of the acute cAMP response was not predictive of anti-fibrotic efficacy. Here we examined the reason for this apparent disconnect by stimulating the Gαs-coupled prostacyclin receptor and measuring downstream signalling at a sub-cellular level. MRE-269 and treprostinil caused sustained cAMP signalling in the nucleus and complete inhibition of PDGF-induced nuclear ERK and fibroblast proliferation. In contrast, iloprost caused a transient increase in nuclear cAMP, there was no effect of iloprost on PDGF-induced ERK in the nucleus, and this agonist was much less effective at reversing PDGF-induced proliferation. This suggests that sustained elevation of cAMP in the nucleus is necessary for efficient inhibition of PDGF-induced nuclear ERK and fibroblast proliferation. This is an important first step towards understanding of the signalling events that drive GPCR inhibition of fibrosis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number669227
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in Pharmacology
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2021


  • cAMP
  • extracellular signal-regulated kinase
  • G protein-coupled receptor
  • localised signalling
  • prostacyclin receptor

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