BACKGROUND: -Microvascular damage is one of the first pathological changes in systemic sclerosis. In this study, we investigated the role of Fos-related antigen-2 (Fra-2), a transcription factor of the activator protein-1 family, in the peripheral vasculopathy of systemic sclerosis and examined the underlying mechanisms. Methods and Results-Expression of Fra-2 protein was significantly increased in skin biopsies of systemic sclerosis patients compared with healthy controls, especially in endothelial and vascular smooth muscle cells. Fra-2 transgenic mice developed a severe loss of small blood vessels in the skin that was paralleled by progressive skin fibrosis at 12 weeks of age. The reduction in capillary density was preceded by a significant increase in apoptosis in endothelial cells at week 9 as detected by immunohistochemistry. Similarly, suppression of Fra-2 by small interfering RNA prevented human microvascular endothelial cells from staurosporine-induced apoptosis and improved both the number of tubes and the cumulative tube lengths in the tube formation assay. In addition, cell migration in the scratch assay and vascular endothelial growth factor-dependent chemotaxis in a modified Boyden chamber assay were increased after transfection of human microvascular endothelial cells with Fra-2 small interfering RNA, whereas proliferation was not affected. Conclusions-Fra-2 is present in human systemic sclerosis and may contribute to the development of microvasculopathy by inducing endothelial cell apoptosis and by reducing endothelial cell migration and chemotaxis. Fra-2 transgenic mice are a promising preclinical model to study the mechanisms and therapeutic approaches of the peripheral vasculopathy in systemic sclerosis.