Vimentin has been shown to be involved in wound healing, but its functional contribution to this process is poorly understood. Here we describe a previously unrecognized function of vimentin in coordinating fibroblast proliferation and keratinocyte differentiation during wound healing. Loss of vimentin led to a severe deficiency in fibroblast growth, which in turn inhibited the activation of two major initiators of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), TGF-beta 1 signaling and the Zinc finger transcriptional repressor protein Slug, in vimentin-deficient (VIM-/-) wounds. Correspondingly, VIM-/- wounds exhibited loss of EMT-like keratinocyte activation, limited keratinization, and slow reepithelialization. Furthermore, the fibroblast deficiency abolished collagen accumulation in the VIM-/- wounds. Vimentin reconstitution in VIM-/- fibroblasts restored both their proliferation and TGF-beta 1 production. Similarly, restoring paracrine TGF-beta-Slug-EMT signaling reactivated the transdifferentiation of keratinocytes, reviving their migratory properties, a critical feature for efficient healing. Our results demonstrate that vimentin orchestrates the healing by controlling fibroblast proliferation, TGF-beta 1-Slug signaling, collagen accumulation, and EMT processing, all of which in turn govern the required keratinocyte activation.
- epithelial-mesenchymal transition
- fibroblast proliferation
- keratinocyte migration
- vimentin intermediate filaments