Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) plays an important role in lung fibrosis. In this study, we investigated the role of Rac1, mixed-lineage kinase 3 (MLK3), c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), and activator protein-1 (AP-1) in CTGF-induced collagen I expression in human lung fibroblasts. CTGF caused concentration- and time-dependent increases in collagen I expression. CTGF-induced collagen I expression was inhibited by the dominant negative mutant (DN) of Rac1 (RacN17), MLK3DN, MLK3 inhibitor (K252a), JNK1DN, JNK2DN, a JNK inhibitor (SP600125), and an AP-1 inhibitor (curcumin). Treatment of cells with CTGF caused activation of Rac1, MLK3, JNK, and AP-1. The CTGF-induced increase in MLK3 phosphorylation was inhibited by RacN17. Treatment with RacN17 and the MLK3DN inhibited CTGF-induced JNK phosphorylation. CTGF caused increases in c-Jun phosphorylation and the recruitment of c-Jun and c-Fos to the collagen I promoter. Furthermore, stimulation of cells with the CTGF resulted in increases in AP-1-luciferase activity; this effect was inhibited by Rac1N17, MLK3DN, JNK1DN, and JNK2DN. Moreover, CTGF-induced α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) expression was inhibited by the procollagen I small interfering RNA (siRNA). These results suggest for the first time that CTGF acting through Rac1 activates the MLK3/JNK signaling pathway, which in turn initiates AP-1 activation and recruitment of c-Jun and c-Fos to the collagen I promoter and ultimately induces collagen I expression in human lung fibroblasts. agen I expression may help elucidate the role of CTGF in lung fibrosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2823-2833
Number of pages11
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Molecular Cell Research
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


  • Collagen I
  • Connective tissue growth factor
  • Fibroblasts
  • Lung fibrosis
  • Signal transduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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