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Scleroderma is an inflammatory autoimmune disease characterized by extensive tissue fibrosis. The imbalance of effector T (Teff) and regulatory T (Treg) cells and the production of autoantibodies contribute to the pathogenesis of this disease. Metformin (MET) has anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic effects, but its effect on the in vivo pathogenesis of scleroderma remains unknown. Therefore, we investigated the potential therapeutic effects of MET treatment of mice with bleomycin (BLM)-induced scleroderma. Scleroderma was induced in female C57BL mice by daily subcutaneous injections of BLM for 28 days. After each 2 h BLM injection, mice received MET (200, 100 or 50 mg/kg) or saline (control) by intraperitoneal injection. At the end of the fourth week, spleen mononuclear cells were collected for flow cytometry analysis. Skin samples were harvested for immunohistochemistry and quantification of other biological parameters.Our results showed that BLM increased dermal thickness, collagen deposition, and hydroxyproline level, and MET markedly mitigated these effects. MET also restored the Treg/Teff cell balance. Accordingly, the level of IL-17A and RORγt (related to Th17 cells) decreased, but Foxp3 (related to Treg function) increased in a dose-dependent manner. In addition, MET treatment inhibited spleen germinal center formation. These results indicate that the immunomodulatory and anti-fibrosis effects of MET on BLM-induced scleroderma are mediated by the upregulation of Treg cell differentiation, inhibition of Teff cell differentiation, and suppression of spleen germinal center formation. These results suggest that MET may be a potential therapeutic for scleroderma.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Molecular immunology
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