Adult skin fibroblast state change in murine wound healing

in: Scientific Reports (2023)
Gharbia, Fatma Z.; Abouhashem, Ahmed S.; Moqidem, Yomna A.; Elbaz, Ahmed A.; Abdellatif, Ahmed; Singh, Kanhaiya; Sen, Chandan K.; Azzazy, Hassan
Wound healing is a well-organized dynamic process involving coordinated consecutive phases: homeostasis, inflammation, proliferation and resolution. Fibroblasts play major roles in skin wound healing such as in wound contraction and release of growth factors which are of importance in angiogenesis and tissue remodeling. Abnormal fibroblast phenotypes have been identified in patients with chronic wounds. In this work, we analyzed scRNA-seq datasets of normal and wounded skin from mice at day 4 post-wound to investigate fibroblast heterogeneity during the proliferative phase of wound healing. Compositional analysis revealed a specific subset of fibroblast (cluster 3) that primarily increased in wounded skin (14%) compared to normal skin (3.9%). This subset was characterized by a gene signature marked by the plasma membrane proteins Sfrp2 + Sfrp4 + Sfrp1 + and the transcription factors Ebf1 + Prrx1 + Maged1 + . Differential gene expression and enrichment analysis identified epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) and angiogenesis to be upregulated in the emerging subset of fibroblasts of the wounded skin. Using two other datasets for murine wounded skin confirmed the increase in cluster 3-like fibroblasts at days 2, 7 and 14 post-wounding with a peak at day 7. By performing a similarity check between the differential gene expression profile between wounded and normal skin for this emerging fibroblast subset with drug signature from the ConnectivityMap database, we identified drugs capable of mimicking the observed gene expression change in fibroblasts during wound healing. TTNPB, verteprofin and nicotinic acid were identified as candidate drugs capable of inducing fibroblast gene expression profile necessary for wound healing. On the other hand, methocarbamol, ifosfamide and penbutolol were recognized to antagonize the identified fibroblast differential expression profile during wound healing which might cause delay in wound healing. Taken together, analysis of murine transcriptomic skin wound healing datasets suggested a subset of fibroblasts capable of inducing EMT and further inferred drugs that might be tested as potential candidates to induce wound closure.

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