Matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-3 expression increases after pulpectomy and accelerates angiogenesis in rat dental pulp by an uncharacterised mechanism. Odontoblasts, a major component of dental pulp, could represent a therapeutic target. We investigated whether MMP-3 activity is induced by cytokines and/or is associated with cell proliferation and apoptosis in embryonic stem cell-derived odontoblast-like cells. We used reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, western blotting, an MMP-3 activity assay, a BrdU-cell proliferation enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and DNA fragmentation analysis to evaluate siRNA-mediated downregulation of MMP-3 expression and activity, and any changes in the proliferative and apoptotic responses associated with this reduced expression. Pro-inflammatory cytokines (interleukin-1β, tumour necrosis factor-α and interferon-γ, at relatively low concentrations) induced MMP-3 mRNA and protein expression, and increased MMP-3 activity and cell proliferation, but not apoptosis. MMP-3 silencing produced a potent and significant suppression of cytokine-induced MMP-3 expression and activity, decreased cell proliferation and increased apoptosis. These effects were rescued by application of exogenous MMP-3. Our results suggest that pro-inflammatory cytokines induce MMP-3-regulated cell proliferation and anti-apoptosis effects in odontoblast-like cells derived from embryonic stem cells, in addition to their well-documented destructive role in inflammation.
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