George M et al.
Delineation of mechanisms underlying the regulation of fibrosis-related genes in the heart is an important clinical goal as cardiac fibrosis is a major cause of myocardial dysfunction. This study probed the regulation of Discoidin Domain Receptor 2 (DDR2) gene expression and the regulatory links between Angiotensin II, DDR2 and collagen in Angiotensin II-stimulated cardiac fibroblasts. Real-time PCR and western blot analyses showed that Angiotensin II enhances DDR2 mRNA and protein expression in rat cardiac fibroblasts via NADPH oxidase-dependent reactive oxygen species induction. NF-κB activation, demonstrated by gel shift assay, abolition of DDR2 expression upon NF-κB inhibition, and luciferase and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays confirmed transcriptional control of DDR2 by NF-κB in Angiotensin II-treated cells. Inhibitors of Phospholipase C and Protein kinase C prevented Angiotensin II-dependent p38 MAPK phosphorylation that in turn blocked NF-κB activation. Angiotensin II also enhanced collagen gene expression. Importantly, the stimulatory effects of Angiotensin II on DDR2 and collagen were inter-dependent as siRNA-mediated silencing of one abolished the other. Angiotensin II promoted ERK1/2 phosphorylation whose inhibition attenuated Angiotensin II-stimulation of collagen but not DDR2. Furthermore, DDR2 knockdown prevented Angiotensin II-induced ERK1/2 phosphorylation, indicating that DDR2-dependent ERK1/2 activation enhances collagen expression in cells exposed to Angiotensin II. DDR2 knockdown was also associated with compromised wound healing response to Angiotensin II. To conclude, Angiotensin II promotes NF-κB activation that up-regulates DDR2 transcription. A reciprocal regulatory relationship between DDR2 and collagen, involving cross-talk between the GPCR and RTK pathways, is central to Angiotensin II-induced increase in collagen expression in cardiac fibroblasts.