Activation of MRTF-A-dependent gene expression with a small molecule promotes myofibroblast differentiation and wound healing

Lissette S. Velasquez, Lillian B. Sutherland, Zhenan Liu, Frederick Grinnell, Kristine E. Kamm, Jay W. Schneider, Eric N. Olson, Eric M. Small

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


Myocardin-related transcription factors (MRTFs) regulate cellular contractility and motility by associating with serum response factor (SRF) and activating genes involved in cytoskeletal dynamics. We reported previously that MRTF-A contributes to pathological cardiac remodeling by promoting differentiation of fibroblasts to myofibroblasts following myocardial infarction. Here, we show that forced expression of MRTF-A in dermal fibroblasts stimulates contraction of a collagen matrix, whereas contractility of MRTF-A null fibroblasts is impaired under basal conditions and in response to TGF-β1 stimulation.We also identify an isoxazole ring-containing small molecule, previously shown to induce smooth muscle α-actin gene expression in cardiac progenitor cells, as an agonist of myofibroblast differentiation. Isoxazole stimulates myofibroblast differentiation via induction of MRTF-A-dependent gene expression. The MRTF-SRF signaling axis is activated in response to skin injury, and treatment of dermal wounds with isoxazole accelerates wound closure and suppresses the inflammatory response. These results reveal an important role forMRTF-SRF signaling in dermal myofibroblast differentiation and wound healing and suggest that targeting MRTFs pharmacologically may prove useful in treating diseases associated with inappropriate myofibroblast activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16850-16855
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number42
StatePublished - Oct 15 2013


  • Dermal injury
  • Fibrosis
  • Granulation tissue
  • MAP kinase signaling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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