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Extended report
dsRNA activation of endothelin-1 and markers of vascular activation in endothelial cells and fibroblasts
  1. Giuseppina Farina,
  2. Michael York,
  3. Cindy Collins,
  4. Robert Lafyatis
  1. Rheumatology Section, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Corresponding to Dr Robert Lafyatis, Boston University School of Medicine, Arthritis Center, E5, 72 E Concord Street, Boston, MA 02118, USA; lafyatis{at}


Background In patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc), the relationship between innate immune activation, represented by increased expression of interferon (IFN)-regulated genes, and vascular injury/activation, manifest by increased endothelin-1 (ET-1), endothelin converting enzyme-1 (ECE1) and intercellular adhesion molecule-1, is uncertain.

Objective To investigate the potential roles of innate immune ligands in both these pathogenic pathways.

Methods The effect of known Toll-like receptor (TLR) ligands was tested in vitro on dermal microvascular and pulmonary arterial endothelial cells, and on dermal fibroblasts cultured from healthy controls and patients with SSc. To test the effect of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) on vascular activation/injury in vivo, polyinosinic/polycytidylic acid (poly(I:C)) was administered continuously over 7 days by subcutaneous osmotic pump.

Results dsRNA/poly(I:C), but not other TLR ligands, highly stimulated ET-1 protein and mRNA (EDN1), as well as intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) and IFN-regulated MX2, by endothelial cells and dermal fibroblasts. Poly(I:C) induced EDN1, ECE1, and ICAM-1 mRNA expression in poly(I:C) treated skin. Poly(I:C)-induced EDN1, ECE1 and MX2 was not blocked in mice with the type I IFN receptor deleted. However, poly(I:C)-induced EDN1 and ECE1, but not poly(I:C)-induced ICAM-1 expression was blocked in mice with the TLR3 signalling protein TRIF/TICAM-1 deleted.

Conclusion Together these data show that the dsRNA can regulate genes associated with vascular activation, as seen in SSc, that type I IFNs do not mediate these effects, and that EDN1 and ECE1 but not ICAM-1 activation is mediated by TLR3.

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  • GF and MY contributed equally to this work.

  • Funding This study was supported by: ‘Norma Nadeau/Mary Van Neste Research Grant’ New England chapter of the Scleroderma Foundation, to GF, Scleroderma Foundation and American College of Rheumatology/Research and Educational Fund grants to MY, and NIH grants U0IAR055063 and R01AR051089 to RL. The authors would also like to acknowledge support from the American Society for Scleroderma Research.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of Boston University Medical Center Institutional Review Board.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.