Scientific reports

Absence of fibromodulin affects matrix composition, collagen deposition and cell turnover in healthy and fibrotic lung parenchyma.

PMID 25230586


The ECM exerts great effects on cells, and changed composition may therefore have profound impact. Small leucine-rich proteoglycans, e.g. fibromodulin, are essential in collagen assembly. Our aim was to investigate the role of fibromodulin in healthy and fibrotic lung parenchyma, theorizing that fibromodulin-deficient animals would be protected against fibrosis. Repeated subcutaneous bleomycin-injections were given to wild type and fibromodulin-deficient mice, inducing pulmonary fibrosis. Development of fibrosis, ECM composition, cell turnover and inflammatory responses were investigated. Fibromodulin-deficient animals were not protected from fibrosis, but the composition of the matrix was affected, with decreased Collagen I in fibromodulin-deficient animals, both in controls (0.07 ± 0.04% vs. 0.18 ± 0.07% tissue area) and after bleomycin (0.37 ± 0.16% vs. 0.61 ± 0.21% tissue area). Biglycan was increased in fibromodulin-deficient animals, whereas decorin was decreased. Furthermore, bleomycin increased cell turnover in wild type, but only proliferation in fibromodulin-deficient animals, resulting in hyperplasia. In addition, the bleomycin-induced immune response was affected in fibromodulin-deficient animals. We thus conclude that fibromodulin has a profound effect on ECM, both in healthy and fibrotic lung parenchyma, and may be providing a permissive microenvironment affecting cell turnover. Furthermore, this study highlights the need to acknowledge specific ECM components, when assessing tissue properties and ultimately cell behaviour.