Thrombin is a multifunctional serine protease that has a crucial role in blood coagulation. It is also a potent mesenchymal cell mitogen and chemoattractant and might therefore have an important role in the recruitment and local proliferation of mesenchymal cells at sites of tissue injury. We hypothesized that thrombin might also affect the deposition of connective tissue proteins at these sites by directly stimulating fibroblast procollagen production. To address this hypothesis, the effect of thrombin on procollagen production and gene expression by human foetal lung fibroblasts was assessed over 48 h. Thrombin stimulated procollagen production at concentrations of 1 nM and above, with maximal increases of between 60% and 117% at 10 nM thrombin. These effects of thrombin were, at least in part, due to increased steady-state levels of α1(I) procollagen mRNA. They could furthermore be reproduced with thrombin receptor-activating peptides for the protease-activated receptor 1 (PAR-1) and were completely abolished when thrombin was rendered proteolytically inactive with the specific inhibitors d-Phe-Pro-ArgCH2Cl and hirudin, indicating that thrombin is mediating these effects via the proteolytic activation of PAR-1. These results suggest that thrombin might influence the deposition of connective tissue proteins during normal wound healing and the development of tissue fibrosis by stimulating fibroblast procollagen production.
These authors contributed equally to this work.