By stimulating collagen synthesis and myofibroblasts differentiation, transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) plays a pivotal role in tissue repair and fibrosis. The early growth response-1 (Egr-1) transcription factor mediates profibrotic TGF-β responses, and its expression is elevated in biopsies from patients with scleroderma. NGF1-A-binding protein 2 (Nab2) is a conserved transcriptional cofactor that directly binds to Egr-1 and positively or negatively modulates Egr-1 target gene transcription. Despite the recognized importance of Nab2 in governing the intensity of Egr-1-dependent responses, the regulation and function of Nab2 in the context of fibrotic TGF-β signaling is unknown. Here we show that TGF-β caused a time-dependent stimulation of Nab2 protein and mRNA in normal fibroblasts. Ectopic expression of Nab2 in these cells blocked Egr-1-dependent transcriptional responses, and abrogated TGF-β-induced stimulation of collagen synthesis and myofibroblasts differentiation. These inhibitory effects of Nab2 involved recruitment of the NuRD chromatin remodeling complex to the COL1A2 promoter and were accompanied by reduced histone H4 acetylation. Mice with targeted deletion of Nab2 displayed increased collagen accumulation in the dermis, and genetic or siRNA-mediated loss of Nab2 in fibroblasts was associated with constitutively elevated collagen synthesis and accentuation of Egr-1-dependent TGF-β responses in vitro. Expression of Nab2 was markedly up-regulated in skin biopsies from patients with scleroderma, and was localized primarily to epidermal keratinocytes. In contrast, little Nab2 could be detected in dermal fibroblasts. These results identify Nab2 as a novel endogenous negative regulator of Egr-1-dependent TGF-β signaling responsible for setting the intensity of fibrotic responses. Defective Nab2 expression or function in dermal fibroblasts might play a role in persistent fibrotic responses in scleroderma.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere7620
JournalPloS one
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 26 2009


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