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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Pirfenidone inhibits TGF-β1-induced over-expression of collagen type I and heat shock protein 47 in A549 cells

Keiko Hisatomi1, Hiroshi Mukae2, Noriho Sakamoto1*, Yuji Ishimatsu1, Tomoyuki Kakugawa1, Shintaro Hara1, Hanako Fujita1, Seiko Nakamichi3, Hisashi Oku4, Yoshishige Urata5, Hiroshi Kubota6, Kazuhiro Nagata6 and Shigeru Kohno1

Author Affiliations

1 Second Department of Internal Medicine, Nagasaki University School of Medicine, 1-7-1 Sakamoto, Nagasaki, 852-8501, Japan

2 Department of Respiratory Medicine, University of Occupational and Environmental Health, Kitakyushu, Japan

3 Department of General Medicine, Nagasaki University Hospital, Nagasaki, Japan

4 Discovery Research Laboratories, Shionogi & Co. Ltd, Osaka, Japan

5 Department of Stem Cell Biology, Nagasaki University Graduate of Biomedical Science, Nagasaki, Japan

6 Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Institute for Frontier Medical Science, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan

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BMC Pulmonary Medicine 2012, 12:24  doi:10.1186/1471-2466-12-24

Published: 13 June 2012



Pirfenidone is a novel anti-fibrotic and anti-inflammatory agent that inhibits the progression of fibrosis in animal models and in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). We previously showed that pirfenidone inhibits the over-expression of collagen type I and of heat shock protein (HSP) 47, a collagen-specific molecular chaperone, in human lung fibroblasts stimulated with transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1 in vitro. The increased numbers of HSP47-positive type II pneumocytes as well as fibroblasts were also diminished by pirfenidone in an animal model of pulmonary fibrosis induced by bleomycin. The present study evaluates the effects of pirfenidone on collagen type I and HSP47 expression in the human alveolar epithelial cell line, A549 cells in vitro.


The expression of collagen type I, HSP47 and E-cadherin mRNAs in A549 cells stimulated with TGF-β1 was evaluated by Northern blotting or real-time PCR. The expression of collagen type I, HSP47 and fibronectin proteins was assessed by immunocytochemical staining.


TGF-β1 stimulated collagen type I and HSP47 mRNA and protein expression in A549 cells, and pirfenidone significantly inhibited this process. Pirfenidone also inhibited over-expression of the fibroblast phenotypic marker fibronectin in A549 cells induced by TGF-β1.


We concluded that the anti-fibrotic effects of pirfenidone might be mediated not only through the direct inhibition of collagen type I expression but also through the inhibition of HSP47 expression in alveolar epithelial cells, which results in reduced collagen synthesis in lung fibrosis. Furthermore, pirfenidone might partially inhibit the epithelial-mesenchymal transition.

Pneumocyte; Interstitial pneumonia; Epithelial cell; Epithelial mesenchymal transition; Pulmonary fibrosis