Purpose: The aim of this study was to investigate the anti-fibrotic effect of relaxin in subsynovial fibroblasts activated by transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β). Materials and Methods: To test the anti-fibrotic effect of an adenovirus-relaxin construct (Ad-RLN) on subsynovial fibroblasts in vitro, cells from subsynovial connective tissue of patients with carpal tunnel syndrome were activated with TGF-β1 and exposed to Ad-RLN (as a therapeutic gene) or adenovirus-lacZ construct (as a marker gene) for four hours. Subsynovial fibroblast cultures without adenoviral exposure served as controls. Results: We observed induction of gene expressions of collagen I, III and IV, as well as the abatement of alpha-smooth muscle actin (a-SMA) synthesis, Smad2 phosphorylation, and fibronectin at the protein level, in comparison to controls. In addition, protein expressions of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) I was significantly induced, whereas the protein expressions of tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases (TIMP) I and IV were reduced due to relaxin expression. Conclusion: RLN prevents excessive synthesis of extracellular matrix by reducing the expressions of its components, such as fibronectin, a-SMA, and phosphorylated Smad2, by increasing the expression of MMPs; and by decreasing the expression of TIMPs.
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