Background & Aims: More than half of Crohn's disease patients develop intestinal fibrosis-induced intestinal strictures. Elafin is a human protease inhibitor that is down-regulated in the stricturing intestine of Crohn's disease patients. We investigated the efficacy of elafin in reversing intestinal fibrosis and elucidated its mechanism of action. Methods: We developed a new method to mimic a stricturing Crohn's disease environment and induce fibrogenesis using stricturing Crohn's disease patient-derived serum exosomes to condition fresh human intestinal tissues and primary stricturing Crohn's disease patient-derived intestinal fibroblasts. Three mouse models of intestinal fibrosis, including SAMP1/YitFc mice, Salmonella-infected mice, and trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid–treated mice, were also studied. Elafin-Eudragit FS30D formulation and elafin-overexpressing construct and lentivirus were used. Results: Elafin reversed collagen synthesis in human intestinal tissues and fibroblasts pretreated with Crohn's disease patient-derived serum exosomes. Proteome arrays identified cathepsin S as a novel fibroblast-derived pro-fibrogenic protease. Elafin directly suppressed cathepsin S activity to inhibit protease-activated receptor 2 activity and Zinc finger E-box-binding homeobox 1 expression, leading to reduced collagen expression in intestinal fibroblasts. Elafin overexpression reversed ileal fibrosis in SAMP1/YitFc mice, cecal fibrosis in Salmonella-infected mice, and colonic fibrosis in trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid–treated mice. Cathepsin S, protease-activated receptor 2 agonist, and zinc finger E-box-binding homeobox 1 overexpression abolished the anti-fibrogenic effect of elafin in fibroblasts and all 3 mouse models of intestinal fibrosis. Oral elafin-Eudragit FS30D treatment abolished colonic fibrosis in trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid–treated mice. Conclusions: Elafin suppresses collagen synthesis in intestinal fibroblasts via cathepsin S-dependent protease-activated receptor 2 inhibition and decreases zinc finger E-box-binding homeobox 1 expression. The reduced collagen synthesis leads to the reversal of intestinal fibrosis. Thus, modified elafin may be a therapeutic approach for intestinal fibrosis.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||36|
|Journal||Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology|
|State||Published - Jan 2022|
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