TGF-β1 induced transdifferentiation of RPE cells is mediated by TAK1

Zeev Dvashi, Mordechai Goldberg, Orit Adir, Michal Shapira, Ayala Pollack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and Aim Proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR) is an active process that develops as a complication upon retinal detachment (RD), accompanied by formation of fibrotic tissue. The main cells involved in the development of fibrotic tissue during PVR are the retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells. The RPE cells undergo epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) which leads to complex retinal detachment and loss of vision. Transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1) is considered as the main player in the EMT of RPE cells, even though the mechanism is not fully understood. This study was performed to determine the possible involvement of transforming growth factor β activated kinase 1 (TAK1) in the EMT process of the RPE cells. Methodology ARPE-19 Cells were treated with 5Z-7 oxozeaenol (TAK1 inhibitor) or SB431542 (TGF-β1 receptor kinase inhibitor) followed by TGF- β1 stimulation. Immunofluorescence, scratch assay Real time PCR and collagen contraction assay assessed the EMT features. The phosphorylation of Smad2/3 and p38 was examined using western blots analysis. Results This study demonstrates that stimulation of RPE cells with TGF-β1 increases α-SMA expression, cell migration and cell contractility, all of which are EMT features. Remarkably, addition of TAK1 inhibitor abolishes all these processes. Furthermore, we show hereby that TAK1 regulates not only the activation of the non-canonical cascade of TGF-β1 (p38), but also the canonical cascade, the Smad2/3 activation. Thus, the outcome of the TGF-β response in RPE cells is TAK1 dependent. Conclusions/Significance This work demonstrated TAK1, a component of the non-canonical pathway of TGF-β1, is a key player in the EMT process, thus provides deep insight into the pathogenesis of PVR. The ability to halt the process of EMT in RPE cells may reduce the severity of the fibrotic response that occurs upon PVR, leading to a better prognosis and increase the probability of success in RD treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere122229
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
StatePublished - 7 Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes


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