Inducible lineage-specific deletion of TbetaRII in fibroblasts defines a pivotal regulatory role during adult skin wound healing.
Previous attempts to delete type II TGFbeta receptor (TbetaRII) in fibroblasts have precluded examination of adult mice due to early mortality. We have selectively deleted TbetaRII postnatally in differentiated connective tissue fibroblasts using an inducible Cre-Lox strategy. Tamoxifen-dependent Cre recombinase linked to a fibroblast-specific regulatory sequence from the proalpha2(I)collagen gene permitted deletion of floxed TbetaRII alleles. After postnatal deletion of TbetaRII in fibroblasts, healing of excisional skin wounds in adults showed markedly attenuated dermal scar formation, defective wound contraction and enhanced epidermal proliferation. These findings support a pivotal role for transforming growth factor beta (TGFbeta) signalling in fibroblasts in regulating normal skin wound healing. Explanted dermal fibroblasts from TbetaRII-null-fib mice showed impaired migration and did not generate normal contractile biomechanical forces in fixed collagen gels nor develop alpha-smooth muscle antigen-rich stress fibers in response to TGFbeta1. Surprisingly, some TGFbeta-regulated proteins, including connective tissue growth factor (CTGF), were basally upregulated in TbetaRII-null fibroblasts and this was dependent on extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 activity in these cells. This suggests that other intracellular pathways regulating CTGF expression may partially compensate for disruption of TGFbeta signalling in fibroblasts. Together, our data confirm that expression of TbetaRII in differentiated dermal fibroblasts is essential for normal wound healing and demonstrate a critical role in the development and function of myofibroblasts.