Intestinal fibrosis is a common complication of inflammatory bowel disease. So far, there is no safe and effective drug for intestinal fibrosis. Pirfenidone is an anti-fibrotic compound available for the treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Here, we explored the anti-proliferative and anti-fibrotic properties of pirfenidone on primary human intestinal fibroblasts (p-hIFs). p-hIFs were cultured in the absence and presence of pirfenidone. Cell proliferation was measured by a real-time cell analyzer (xCELLigence) and BrdU incorporation. Cell motility was monitored by live cell imaging. Cytotoxicity and cell viability were analyzed by Sytox green, Caspase-3 and Water Soluble Tetrazolium Salt-1 (WST-1) assays. Gene expression of fibrosis markers was determined by quantitative reverse transcription PCR (RT-qPCR). The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling was analyzed by Western blotting and type I collagen protein expression additionally by immunofluorescence microscopy. Pirfenidone dose-dependently inhibited p-hIF proliferation and motility, without inducing cell death. Pirfenidone suppressed mRNA levels of genes that contribute to extracellular matrix production, as well as basal and TGF-β1-induced collagen I protein production, which was associated with inhibition of the rapamycin-sensitive mTOR/p70S6K pathway in p-hIFs. Thus, pirfenidone inhibits the proliferation of intestinal fibroblasts and suppresses collagen I production through the TGF-β1/mTOR/p70S6K signaling pathway, which might be a novel and safe anti-fibrotic strategy to treat intestinal fibrosis.
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