Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Fibroblasts secrete Slit2 to inhibit fibrocyte differentiation and fibrosis.

PMID 25489114


Monocytes leave the blood and enter tissues. In healing wounds and fibrotic lesions, some of the monocytes differentiate into fibroblast-like cells called fibrocytes. In healthy tissues, even though monocytes enter the tissue, for unknown reasons, very few monocytes differentiate into fibrocytes. In this report, we show that fibroblasts from healthy human tissues secrete the neuronal guidance protein Slit2 and that Slit2 inhibits human fibrocyte differentiation. In mice, injections of Slit2 inhibit bleomycin-induced lung fibrosis. In lung tissue from pulmonary fibrosis patients with relatively normal lung function, Slit2 has a widespread distribution whereas, in patients with advanced disease, there is less Slit2 in the fibrotic lesions. These data may explain why fibrocytes are rarely observed in healthy tissues, may suggest that the relative levels of Slit2 present in healthy tissue and at sites of fibrosis may have a significant effect on the decision of monocytes to differentiate into fibrocytes, and may indicate that modulating Slit2 signaling may be useful as a therapeutic for fibrosis.