Fibrosis has been considered as a major cause of capsular contracture. Hypoxia has widely emerged as one of the driving factors for fibrotic diseases. The aim of this study was to examine the association between hypoxia-induced fibrosis and breast capsular contracture formation. Fibrosis, epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), expression levels of hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α), vimentin, fibronectin, and matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) in tissues from patients with capsular contracture were determined according to the Baker classification system. Normal breast skin cells in patients with capsular contracture after implant-based breast surgery and NIH3T3 mouse fibroblasts were cultured with cobalt chloride (CoCl2) to mimic hypoxic conditions. Treatment responses were determined by detecting the expression of HIF-1α, vimentin, fibronectin, N-cadherin, snail, twist, occludin, MMP-9, tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-1 (TIMP-1) and -2, as well as phosphorylated ERK. The expression levels of HIF-1α, vimentin, fibronectin, and fibrosis as well as EMT were positively correlated with the severity of capsular contracture. MMP-9 expression was negatively correlated the Baker score. Hypoxia up-regulated the expression of HIF-1α, vimentin, fibronectin, N-cadherin, snail, twist, TIMP-1 and -2, as well as phosphorylated ERK in normal breast skin cells and NIH3T3. Nonetheless, the expression levels of MMP-9 and occludin were down-regulated in response to CoCl2 treatment. This study is the first to demonstrate the association of hypoxia-induced fibrosis and capsular contracture.
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