Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a potent stimulator of vascular angiogenesis, permeability, and remodeling that also plays important roles in wound healing and tissue cytoprotection. To begin to define the roles of VEGF in diseases like asthma and COPD, we characterized the effects of lung-targeted transgenic VEGF165 and defined the innate immune pathways that regulate VEGF tissue responses. The former studies demonstrated that VEGF plays an important role in Th2 inflammation because, in addition to stimulating angiogenesis and edema, VEGF induced eosinophilic inflammation, mucus metaplasia, subepithelial fibrosis, myocyte hyperplasia, dendritic cell activation, and airways hyperresponsiveness via IL-13–dependent and -independent mechanisms. VEGF was also produced at sites of aeroallergen-induced Th2 inflammation, and VEGF receptor blockade ameliorated adaptive Th2 inflammation and Th2 cytokine elaboration. The latter studies demonstrated that activation of the RIG-like helicase (RLH) innate immune pathway using viral pathogen–associated molecular patterns such as Poly(I:C) or viruses ameliorated VEGF-induced tissue responses. In accord with these findings, Poly(I:C)-induced RLH activation also abrogated aeroallergen-induced Th2 inflammation. When viewed in combination, these studies suggest that VEGF excess can contribute to the pathogenesis of Th2 inflammatory disorders such as asthma and that abrogation of VEGF signaling via RLH activation can contribute to the pathogenesis of viral disorders such as virus-induced COPD exacerbations. They also suggest that RLH activation may be a useful therapeutic strategy in asthma and related disorders.
asthma; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; virus; RIG-like helicase; mitochondrial antiviral signaling molecule
Eosinophilic inflammation and remodeling of the airways including subepithelial fibrosis and myofibroblast hyperplasia are characteristic pathological findings of bronchial asthma. Epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) plays a critical role in airway remodelling. In this study, we hypothesized that infiltrating eosinophils promote airway remodelling in bronchial asthma. To demonstrate this hypothesis we evaluated the effect of eosinophils on EMT by in vitro and in vivo studies. EMT was assessed in mice that received intra-tracheal instillation of mouse bone marrow derived eosinophils and in human bronchial epithelial cells co-cultured with eosinophils freshly purified from healthy individuals or with eosinophilic leukemia cell lines. Intra-tracheal instillation of eosinophils was associated with enhanced bronchial inflammation and fibrosis and increased lung concentration of growth factors. Mice instilled with eosinophils pre-treated with transforming growth factor(TGF)-β1 siRNA had decreased bronchial wall fibrosis compared to controls. EMT was induced in bronchial epithelial cells co-cultured with human eosinophils and it was associated with increased expression of TGF-β1 and Smad3 phosphorylation in the bronchial epithelial cells. Treatment with anti-TGF-β1 antibody blocked EMT in bronchial epithelial cells. Eosinophils induced EMT in bronchial epithelial cells, suggesting their contribution to the pathogenesis of airway remodelling.
Fibrosis and apoptosis are juxtaposed in pulmonary disorders such as asthma and the interstitial diseases, and transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1 has been implicated in the pathogenesis of these responses. However, the in vivo effector functions of TGF-β1 in the lung and its roles in the pathogenesis of these responses are not completely understood. In addition, the relationships between apoptosis and other TGF-β1–induced responses have not been defined. To address these issues, we targeted bioactive TGF-β1 to the murine lung using a novel externally regulatable, triple transgenic system. TGF-β1 produced a transient wave of epithelial apoptosis that was followed by mononuclear-rich inflammation, tissue fibrosis, myofibroblast and myocyte hyperplasia, and septal rupture with honeycombing. Studies of these mice highlighted the reversibility of this fibrotic response. They also demonstrated that a null mutation of early growth response gene (Egr)-1 or caspase inhibition blocked TGF-β1–induced apoptosis. Interestingly, both interventions markedly ameliorated TGF-β1–induced fibrosis and alveolar remodeling. These studies illustrate the complex effects of TGF-β1 in vivo and define the critical role of Egr-1 in the TGF-β1 phenotype. They also demonstrate that Egr-1–mediated apoptosis is a prerequisite for TGF-β1–induced fibrosis and remodeling.
asthma; pulmonary fibrosis; fibrosis reversibility; airway remodeling
Transforming growth factor (TGF)-α and its receptor, the epidermal growth factor receptor, are induced after lung injury and are associated with remodeling in chronic pulmonary diseases, such as pulmonary fibrosis and asthma. Expression of TGF-α in the lungs of adult mice causes fibrosis, pleural thickening, and pulmonary hypertension, in addition to increased expression of a transcription factor, early growth response-1 (Egr-1). Egr-1 was increased in airway smooth muscle (ASM) and the vascular adventitia in the lungs of mice conditionally expressing TGF-α in airway epithelium (Clara cell secretory protein–rtTA+/−/[tetO]7–TGF-α+/−). The goal of this study was to determine the role of Egr-1 in TGF-α–induced lung disease. To accomplish this, TGF-α–transgenic mice were crossed to Egr-1 knockout (Egr-1ko/ko) mice. The lack of Egr-1 markedly increased the severity of TGF-α–induced pulmonary disease, dramatically enhancing airway muscularization, increasing pulmonary fibrosis, and causing greater airway hyperresponsiveness to methacholine. Smooth muscle hyperplasia, not hypertrophy, caused the ASM thickening in the absence of Egr-1. No detectable increases in pulmonary inflammation were found. In addition to the airway remodeling disease, vascular remodeling and pulmonary hypertension were also more severe in Egr-1ko/ko mice. Thus, Egr-1 acts to suppress epidermal growth factor receptor–mediated airway and vascular muscularization, fibrosis, and airway hyperresponsiveness in the absence of inflammation. This provides a unique model to study the processes causing pulmonary fibrosis and ASM thickening without the complicating effects of inflammation.
transforming growth factor-α; pulmonary fibrosis; asthma; pulmonary hypertension; vascular remodeling
Transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1 is an essential regulatory cytokine that has been implicated in the pathogenesis of diverse facets of the injury and repair responses in the lung. The types of responses that it elicits can be appreciated in studies from our laboratory that demonstrated that the transgenic (Tg) overexpression of TGF-β1 in the murine lung causes epithelial apoptosis followed by fibrosis, inflammation, and parenchymal destruction. Because a cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor, p21, is a key regulator of apoptosis, we hypothesized that p21 plays an important role in the pathogenesis of TGF-β1–induced tissue responses. To test this hypothesis we evaluated the effect of TGF-β1 on the expression of p21 in the murine lung. We also characterized the effects of transgenic TGF-β1 in mice with wild-type and null mutant p21 loci. These studies demonstrate that TGF-β1 is a potent stimulator of p21 expression in the epithelial cells and macrophages in the murine lung. They also demonstrate that TGF-β1–induced lung inflammation, fibrosis, myofibroblast accumulation, and alveolar destruction are augmented in the absence of p21, and that these alterations are associated with exaggerated levels of apoptosis and caspase-3 activation. Finally, our studies further demonstrated that TGF-β1 induces p21 via a TNF-α–signaling pathway and that p21 is a negative modulator of TGF-β1–induced TNF-α expression. Collectively, our studies demonstrate that p21 regulates TGF-β1–induced apoptosis, inflammation, fibrosis, and alveolar remodeling by interacting with TNF-α–signaling pathways.
TGF-β; p21; apoptosis; fibrosis; emphysema
Gingival overgrowth is a side effect of certain medications. The most fibrotic drug-induced lesions develop in response to therapy with phenytoin, the least fibrotic lesions are caused by cyclosporin A, and the intermediate fibrosis occurs in nifedipine-induced gingival overgrowth. Fibrosis is one of the largest groups of diseases for which there is no therapy but is believed to occur because of a persistent tissue repair program. During connective tissue repair, activated gingival fibroblasts synthesize and remodel newly created extracellular matrix. Proteins such as transforming growth factor (TGF), endothelin-1 (ET-1), angiotensin II (Ang II), connective tissue growth factor (CCN2/CTGF), insulin-like growth factor (IGF), and platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) appear to act in a network that contributes to the development of gingival fibrosis. Since inflammation is the prerequisite for gingival overgrowth, mast cells and its protease enzymes also play a vital role in the pathogenesis of gingival fibrosis. Drugs targeting these proteins are currently under consideration as antifibrotic treatments. This review summarizes recent observations concerning the contribution of TGF-β, CTGF, IGF, PDGF, ET-1, Ang II, and mast cell chymase and tryptase enzymes to fibroblast activation in gingival fibrosis and the potential utility of agents blocking these proteins in affecting the outcome of drug-induced gingival overgrowth.
Rationale: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is characterized by chronic inflammation, alveolar destruction, and airway and vascular remodeling. However, the mechanisms that lead to these diverse alterations have not been defined.
Objectives: We hypothesized that IL-18 plays a central role in the pathogenesis of these lesions.
Methods: We generated and characterized lung-specific, inducible IL-18 transgenic mice.
Measurements and Main Results: Here we demonstrate that the expression of IL-18 in the mature murine lung induces inflammation that is associated with the accumulation of CD4+, CD8+, CD19+, and NK1.1+ cells; emphysema; mucus metaplasia; airway fibrosis; vascular remodeling; and right ventricle cardiac hypertrophy. We also demonstrate that IL-18 induces type 1, type 2, and type 17 cytokines with IFN-γ–inhibiting macrophage, lymphocyte, and eosinophil accumulation while stimulating alveolar destruction and genes associated with cell cytotoxicity and IL-13 and IL-17A inducing mucus metaplasia, airway fibrosis, and vascular remodeling. We also highlight interactions between these responses with IL-18 inducing IL-13 via an IL-17A–dependent mechanism and the type 1 and type17/type 2 responses counterregulating each another.
Conclusions: These studies define the spectrum of inflammatory, parenchymal, airway, and vascular alterations that are induced by pulmonary IL-18; highlight the similarities between these responses and the lesions in COPD; and define the selective roles that type 1, type 2, and type 17 responses play in the generation of IL-18–induced pathologies.
IL-18; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; airway fibrosis; mucus metaplasia; vascular remodeling
Infection with the parasitic helminth Schistosoma mansoni causes significant liver fibrosis and extracellular matrix (ECM) remodeling. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMP) are important regulators of the ECM by regulating cellular inflammation, extracellular matrix deposition, and tissue reorganization. MMP12 is a macrophage-secreted elastase that is highly induced in the liver and lung in response to S. mansoni eggs, confirmed by both DNA microarray and real-time PCR analysis. However, the function of MMP12 in chronic helminth-induced inflammation and fibrosis is unclear. In this study, we reveal that MMP12 acts as a potent inducer of inflammation and fibrosis after infection with the helminth parasite S. mansoni. Surprisingly, the reduction in liver and lung fibrosis in MMP12-deficient mice was not associated with significant changes in cytokine, chemokine, TGF-β1, or tissue inhibitors of matrix metalloproteinase expression. Instead, we observed marked increases in MMP2 and MMP13 expression, suggesting that Mmp12 was promoting fibrosis by limiting the expression of specific ECM-degrading MMPs. Interestingly, like MMP12, MMP13 expression was highly dependent on IL-13 and type II–IL-4 receptor signaling. However, in contrast to MMP12, expression of MMP13 was significantly suppressed by the endogenous IL-13 decoy receptor, IL-13Rα2. In the absence of MMP12, expression of IL-13Rα2 was significantly reduced, providing a possible explanation for the increased IL-13-driven MMP13 activity and reduced fibrosis. As such, these data suggest important counter-regulatory roles between MMP12 and ECM-degrading enzymes like MMP2, MMP9, and MMP13 in Th2 cytokine-driven fibrosis.
Rationale: Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a chronic dysregulated response to alveolar epithelial injury with differentiation of epithelial cells and fibroblasts into matrix-secreting myofibroblasts resulting in lung scaring. The prognosis is poor and there are no effective therapies or reliable biomarkers. Galectin-3 is a β-galactoside binding lectin that is highly expressed in fibrotic tissue of diverse etiologies.
Objectives: To examine the role of galectin-3 in pulmonary fibrosis.
Methods: We used genetic deletion and pharmacologic inhibition in well-characterized murine models of lung fibrosis. Further mechanistic studies were performed in vitro and on samples from patients with IPF.
Measurements and Main Results: Transforming growth factor (TGF)-β and bleomycin-induced lung fibrosis was dramatically reduced in mice deficient in galectin-3, manifest by reduced TGF-β1–induced EMT and myofibroblast activation and collagen production. Galectin-3 reduced phosphorylation and nuclear translocation of β-catenin but had no effect on Smad2/3 phosphorylation. A novel inhibitor of galectin-3, TD139, blocked TGF-β–induced β-catenin activation in vitro and in vivo and attenuated the late-stage progression of lung fibrosis after bleomycin. There was increased expression of galectin-3 in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid and serum from patients with stable IPF compared with nonspecific interstitial pneumonitis and controls, which rose sharply during an acute exacerbation suggesting that galectin-3 may be a marker of active fibrosis in IPF and that strategies that block galectin-3 may be effective in treating acute fibrotic exacerbations of IPF.
Conclusions: This study identifies galectin-3 as an important regulator of lung fibrosis and provides a proof of principle for galectin-3 inhibition as a potential novel therapeutic strategy for IPF.
fibrosis; epithelial cells; fibroblasts
Semaphorin (SEMA) 7A regulates neuronal and immune function. In these studies, we tested the hypothesis that SEMA 7A is also a critical regulator of tissue remodeling. These studies demonstrate that SEMA 7A and its receptors, plexin C1 and β1 integrins, are stimulated by transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1 in the murine lung. They also demonstrate that SEMA 7A plays a critical role in TGF-β1–induced fibrosis, myofibroblast hyperplasia, alveolar remodeling, and apoptosis. TGF-β1 stimulated SEMA 7A via a largely Smad 3–independent mechanism and stimulated SEMA 7A receptors, matrix proteins, CCN proteins, fibroblast growth factor 2, interleukin 13 receptor components, proteases, antiprotease, and apoptosis regulators via Smad 2/3–independent and SEMA 7A–dependent mechanisms. SEMA 7A also played an important role in the pathogenesis of bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis. TGF-β1 and bleomycin also activated phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) and protein kinase B (PKB)/AKT via SEMA 7A–dependent mechanisms, and PKB/AKT inhibition diminished TGF-β1–induced fibrosis. These observations demonstrate that SEMA 7A and its receptors are induced by TGF-β1 and that SEMA 7A plays a central role in a PI3K/PKB/AKT-dependent pathway that contributes to TGF-β1–induced fibrosis and remodeling. They also demonstrate that the effects of SEMA 7A are not specific for transgenic TGF-β1, highlighting the importance of these findings for other fibrotic stimuli.
To define the factors that control the tissue effects of IL-4, we compared the effects of Tg IL-4 in Balb/c and C57BL/6 mice. In the former, IL-4 caused modest eosinophilic inflammation and mild airway fibrosis and did not shorten survival. In C57BL/6 mice, IL-4 caused profound eosinophilic inflammation, airway fibrosis, emphysematous alveolar destruction, and premature death. These differences could not be accounted for by changes in Th2 or Th1 cytokines, receptor components, STAT6 activation, MMPs, or cathepsins. In contrast, in C57BL/6 mice, alveolar remodeling was associated with decreased levels of tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinase 2, -3, and -4 and α1-antitrypsin, and fibrosis was associated with increased levels of total and bioactive TGF-β1. Impressive differences in adenosine metabolism were also appreciated, with increased tissue adenosine levels and A1, A2B, and A3 adenosine receptor expression and decreased adenosine deaminase (ADA) activity in C57BL/6 animals. Treatment with ADA also reduced the inflammation, fibrosis, and emphysematous destruction and improved the survival of C57BL/6 Tg animals. These studies demonstrate that genetic influences control IL-4 effector pathways in the murine lung. They also demonstrate that IL-4 has different effects on adenosine metabolism in Balb/c and C57BL/6 mice and that these differences contribute to the different responses that IL-4 induces in these inbred animals.
Patients receiving thoracic radiation often develop pulmonary injury and fibrosis. Currently, there are no effective measures to prevent or treat these conditions. We tested whether blockade of the chemokine, CC chemokine ligand (CCL) 3, and its receptors, CC chemokine receptor (CCR) 1 and CCR5, can prevent radiation-induced lung inflammation and fibrosis. C57BL/6J mice received thoracic radiation, and the interaction of CCL3 with CCR1 or CCR5 was blocked using genetic techniques, or by pharmacologic intervention. Lung inflammation was assessed by histochemical staining of lung tissue and by flow cytometry. Fibrosis was measured by hydroxyproline assays and collagen staining, and lung function was studied by invasive procedures. Irradiated mice lacking CCL3 or its receptor, CCR1, did not develop the lung inflammation, fibrosis, and decline in lung function seen in irradiated wild-type mice. Pharmacologic treatment of wild-type mice with a small molecule inhibitor of CCR1 also prevented lung inflammation and fibrosis. By contrast, mice lacking CCR5 were not protected from radiation-induced injury and fibrosis. The selective interaction of CCL3 with its receptor, CCR1, is critical for radiation-induced lung inflammation and fibrosis, and these conditions can be largely prevented by a small molecule inhibitor of CCR1.
chemokine; fibrosis; radiation; lung; inflammation
Cytokines play an important role in the development of diabetic chronic renal insufficiency (CRI). Transforming growth factor β1 (TGF β1) induces renal hypertrophy and fibrosis, and cytokines like tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNFα), chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), and regulated upon activation and normal T cell expressed and secreted (RANTES) mediate macrophage infiltration into kidney. Over expression of these chemokines leads to glomerulosclerosis and interstitial fibrosis. The effect of MCP-1 and RANTES on kidney is conferred by their receptors i.e., chemokine receptor (CCR)-2 and CCR-5 respectively. We tested association of nine single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from TGFβ1, TNFα, CCR2 and CCR5 genes among individuals with type-2 diabetes with and without renal insufficiency.
Type-2 diabetes subjects with chronic renal insufficiency (serum creatinine ≥ 3.0 mg/dl) constituted the cases, and matched individuals with diabetes of duration ≥ 10 years and normoalbuminuria were evaluated as controls from four centres in India. Allelic and genotypic contributions of nine SNPs from TGFβ1, TNFα, CCR2 and CCR5 genes to diabetic CRI were tested by computing odds ratio (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI). Sub-analysis of CRI cases diabetic retinopathy status as dependent variable and SNP genotypes as independent variable in a univariate logistic regression was also performed.
SNPs Tyr81His and Thr263Ile in TGF β1 gene were monomorphic, and Arg25Pro in TGF β1 gene and Δ32 polymorphism in CCR5 gene were minor variants (minor allele frequency <0.05) and therefore were not considered for case-control analysis. A significant allelic association of 59029G>A SNP of CCR5 gene has been observed and the allele 59029A seems to confer predisposition to development of diabetic CRI (OR 1.39; CI 1.04–1.84). In CRI subjects a compound group of genotypes "GA and AA" of SNP G>A -800 was found to confer predisposition for proliferative retinopathy (OR 3.03; CI 1.08–8.50, p = 0.035).
Of the various cytokine gene polymorphisms tested, allele 59029A of CCR5 gene is significantly associated with diabetic renal insufficiency among Asian Indians. Result obtained for 59029G>A SNP of CCR5 gene is in conformity with reports from a Japanese population but due to sub-optimal power of the sample, replication in larger sample set is warranted.
Interleukin (IL)-13 is a key mediator of tissue fibrosis caused by T helper cell type 2 inflammation. We hypothesized that the fibrogenic effects of IL-13 are mediated by transforming growth factor (TGF)-β. To test this hypothesis we compared the regulation of TGF-β in lungs from wild-type mice and CC10-IL-13 mice in which IL-13 overexpression causes pulmonary fibrosis. IL-13 selectively stimulated TGF-β1 production in transgenic animals and macrophages were the major site of TGF-β1 production and deposition in these tissues. IL-13 also activated TGF-β1 in vivo. This activation was associated with decreased levels of mRNA encoding latent TGF-β–binding protein-1 and increased mRNA encoding urinary plasminogen activator, matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-9, and CD44. TGF-β1 activation was abrogated by the plasmin/serine protease antagonist aprotinin. It was also decreased in progeny of crosses of CC10-IL-13 mice and MMP-9 null mice but was not altered in crosses with CD44 null animals. IL-13–induced fibrosis was also significantly ameliorated by treatment with the TGF-β antagonist soluble TGFβR-Fc (sTGFβR-Fc). These studies demonstrate that IL-13 is a potent stimulator and activator of TGF-β1 in vivo. They also demonstrate that this activation is mediated by a plasmin/serine protease- and MMP-9–dependent and CD44-independent mechanism(s) and that the fibrogenic effects of IL-13 are mediated, in great extent, by this TGF-β pathway.
lung; plasmin; matrix metalloproteinase-9; CD44; asthma
A beneficial radioprotective agent has been used to treat the radiation-induced lung injury. This study was performed to investigate whether curcumin, which is known to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, could ameliorate radiation-induced pulmonary inflammation and fibrosis in irradiated lungs. Rats were given daily doses of intragastric curcumin (200 mg/kg) prior to a single irradiation and for 8 weeks after radiation. Histopathologic findings demonstrated that macrophage accumulation, interstitial edema, alveolar septal thickness, perivascular fibrosis, and collapse in radiation-treated lungs were inhibited by curcumin administration. Radiation-induced transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1), connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) expression, and collagen accumulation were also inhibited by curcumin. Moreover, western blot analysis revealed that curcumin lowered radiation-induced increases of tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), TNF receptor 1 (TNFR1), and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). Curcumin also inhibited the nuclear translocation of nuclear factor-κ B (NF-κB) p65 in radiation-treated lungs. These results indicate that long-term curcumin administration may reduce lung inflammation and fibrosis caused by radiation treatment.
Curcumin; Fibrosis; Inflammation; Lung; Radiation
Transforming growth factor (TGF)-α is a ligand for the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). EGFR activation is associated with fibroproliferative processes in human lung disease and animal models of pulmonary fibrosis. Overexpression of TGF-α in transgenic mice causes progressive and severe pulmonary fibrosis; however, the intracellular signaling pathways downstream of EGFR mediating this response are unknown. Using a doxycycline-regulatable transgenic mouse model of lung-specific TGF-α expression, we observed increased PCNA protein and phosphorylation of Akt and p70S6K in whole lung homogenates in association with induction of TGF-α. Induction in the lung of TGF-α caused progressive pulmonary fibrosis over a 7-week period. Daily administration of rapamycin prevented accumulation of total lung collagen, weight loss, and changes in pulmonary mechanics. Treatment of mice with rapamycin 4 weeks after the induction of TGF-α prevented additional weight loss, increases in total collagen, and changes in pulmonary mechanics. Rapamycin prevented further increases in established pulmonary fibrosis induced by EGFR activation. This study demonstrates that mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is a major effector of EGFR-induced pulmonary fibrosis, providing support for further studies to determine the role of mTOR in the pathogenesis and treatment of pulmonary fibrosis.
epidermal growth factor receptor; PI3K; Akt; mTOR
Transforming growth factor (TGF)–β1 is a key mediator of lung remodeling and fibrosis. Epithelial cells are both a source of and can respond to TGF-β1 with epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). We recently determined that TGF-β1–induced EMT in lung epithelial cells requires the presence of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) 1. Because TGF-β1 signals via Smad complexes, the goal of the present study was to determine the impact of JNK1 on phosphorylation of Smad3 and Smad3-dependent transcriptional responses in lung epithelial cells. Evaluation of JNK1-deficient lung epithelial cells demonstrated that TGF-β1–induced terminal phosphorylation of Smad3 was similar, whereas phosphorylation of mitogen-activated protein kinase sites in the linker regions of Smad3 was diminished, in JNK1-deficient cells compared with wild-type cells. In comparison to wild-type Smad3, expression of a mutant Smad3 in which linker mitogen-activated protein kinase sites were ablated caused a marked attenuation in JNK1 or TGF-β1–induced Smad-binding element transcriptional activity, and expression of plasminogen activator inhibitor–1, fibronectin-1, high-mobility group A2, CArG box–binding factor–A, and fibroblast-specific protein–1, genes critical in the process of EMT. JNK1 enhanced the interaction between Smad3 and Smad4, which depended on linker phosphorylation of Smad3. Conversely, Smad3 with phosphomimetic mutations in the linker domain further enhanced EMT-related genes and proteins, even in the absence of JNK1. Finally, we demonstrated a TGF-β1–induced interaction between Smad3 and JNK1. Collectively, these results demonstrate that Smad3 phosphorylation in the linker region and Smad transcriptional activity are directly or indirectly controlled by JNK1, and provide a putative mechanism whereby JNK1 promotes TGF-β1–induced EMT.
transforming growth factor–β1; c-Jun N-terminal kinase 1; Smad3; epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition
Exaggerated levels of VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) are present in persons with asthma, but the role(s) of VEGF in normal and asthmatic lungs has not been defined. We generated lung-targeted VEGF165 transgenic mice and evaluated the role of VEGF in T-helper type 2 cell (TH2)-mediated inflammation. In these mice, VEGF induced, through IL-13–dependent and –independent pathways, an asthma-like phenotype with inflammation, parenchymal and vascular remodeling, edema, mucus metaplasia, myocyte hyperplasia and airway hyper-responsiveness. VEGF also enhanced respiratory antigen sensitization and TH2 inflammation and increased the number of activated DC2 dendritic cells. In antigen-induced inflammation, VEGF was produced by epithelial cells and preferentially by TH2 versus TH1 cells. In this setting, it had a critical role in TH2 inflammation, cytokine production and physiologic dysregulation. Thus, VEGF is a mediator of vascular and extravascular remodeling and inflammation that enhances antigen sensitization and is crucial in adaptive TH2 inflammation. VEGF regulation may be therapeutic in asthma and other TH2 disorders.
IL-13 overexpression in the lung induces inflammatory and remodeling responses that are prominent features of asthma. Whereas most studies have concentrated on the development of IL-13–induced disease, far fewer studies have focused on the reversibility of IL-13–induced pathologies. This is particularly important because current asthma therapy appears to be poor at reversing lung remodeling. In this manuscript, we used an externally regulatable transgenic system that targets expression of IL-13 to the lung with the aim of characterizing the reversibility process. After 4 wk of doxycycline (dox) exposure, IL-13 expression resulted in mixed inflammatory cell infiltration, mucus cell metaplasia, lung fibrosis, and airspace enlargement (emphysema). After withdrawal of dox, IL-13 protein levels were profoundly reduced by 7 d and below baseline by 14 d. During this time frame, the level of lung eosinophils returned to near normal, whereas macrophages, lymphocytes, and neutrophils remained markedly elevated. IL-13–induced mucus cell metaplasia significantly decreased (91%) 3 wk after withdrawal of dox, showing strong correlation with reduced eosinophil levels. In contrast, IL-13–induced lung fibrosis did not significantly decline 4 wk after dox withdrawal. Importantly, IL-13–induced emphysema persisted, but modestly declined 4 wk after dox. Examination of transcript expression profiles identified a subset of genes that remained increased weeks after transgene expression was no longer detected. Notably, numerous IL-13–induced cytokines and enzymes were reversible (IL-6 and cathepsins), whereas others were sustained (CCL6 and chitinases) after IL-13 withdrawal, respectively. Thus, several hallmark features of IL-13–induced lung pathology persist and are dissociated from eosinophilia after IL-13 overexpression ceases.
asthma; cytokines; eosinophils; inflammation; lung
Fibroblast activity promotes adverse left ventricular (LV) remodeling that underlies the development of ischemic cardiomyopathy. Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) is a potent stimulus for fibrosis, and the extracellular signal-regulated kinases(ERK) 1/2 pathway also contributes to the fibrotic response. The thrombin receptor, protease-activated receptor 1 (PAR1), has been shown to play an important role in the excessive fibrosis in different tissues. The aim of this study was to investigate the influence of a PAR1 inhibitor, SCH79797, on cardiac fibrosis, tissue stiffness and postinfarction remodeling, and effects of PAR1 inhibition on thrombin-induced TGF-β and (ERK) 1/2 activities in cardiac fibroblasts.
We used a rat model of myocardial ischemia–reperfusion injury, isolated cardiac fibroblasts, and 3-dimensional (3D) cardiac tissue models fabricated to ascertain the contribution of PAR1 activation on cardiac fibrosis and LV remodeling.
The PAR1 inhibitor attenuated LV dilation and improved LV systolic function of the reperfused myocardium at 28 days. This improvement was associated with a nonsignificant decrease in scar size (%LV) from 23 ± % in the control group (n = 10) to 16% ± 5.5% in the treated group (n = 9; P = .052). In the short term, the PAR1 inhibitor did not rescue infarct size or LV systolic function after 3 days. The PAR1 inhibition abolished thrombin-mediated ERK1/2 phosphorylation, TGF-β and type I procollagen production, matrix metalloproteinase-2/9 activation, myofibroblasts transformation in vitro, and abrogated the remodeling of 3D tissues induced by chronic thrombin treatment.
These studies suggest PAR1 inhibition initiated after ischemic injury attenuates adverse LV remodeling through late-stage antifibrotic events.
cardiac fibrosis; protease-activated receptor 1; thrombin receptor antagonist; remodeling; ischemia; reperfusion; 3D cell culture
Airway remodelling is thought to be under the control of a complex group of molecules belonging to the Transforming Growth Factor (TGF)-superfamily. The Bone Morphogenetic Proteins (BMPs) belong to this family and have been shown to regulate fibrosis in kidney and liver diseases. However, the role of BMPs in lung remodelling remains unclear. BMPs may regulate tissue remodelling in asthma by controlling TGF-β-induced profibrotic functions in lung fibroblasts.
Cell cultures were exposed to TGF-β1 alone or in the presence of BMP-4 or BMP-7; control cultures were exposed to medium only. Cell proliferation was assessed by quantification of the incorporation of [3H]-thymidine. The expression of the mRNA encoding collagen type I and IV, tenascin C and fibronectin in normal human lung fibroblasts (NHLF) was determined by real-time quantitative PCR and the main results were confirmed by ELISA. Cell differentiation was determined by the analysis of the expression of α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) by western blot and immunohistochemistry. The effect on matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) activity was assessed by zymography.
We have demonstrated TGF-β1 induced upregulation of mRNAs encoding the extracellular matrix proteins, tenascin C, fibronectin and collagen type I and IV when compared to unstimulated NHLF, and confirmed these results at the protein level. BMP-4, but not BMP-7, reduced TGF-β1-induced extracellular matrix protein production. TGF-β1 induced an increase in the activity of the pro-form of MMP-2 which was inhibited by BMP-7 but not BMP-4. Both BMP-4 and BMP-7 downregulated TGF-β1-induced MMP-13 release compared to untreated and TGF-β1-treated cells. TGF-β1 also induced a myofibroblast-like transformation which was partially inhibited by BMP-7 but not BMP-4.
Our study suggests that some regulatory properties of BMP-7 may be tissue or cell type specific and unveil a potential regulatory role for BMP-4 in the regulation of lung fibroblast function.
Th1 inflammation and remodeling characterized by tissue destruction frequently coexist in human diseases. To further understand the mechanisms of these responses, we defined the role(s) of CCR5 in the pathogenesis of IFN-γ–induced inflammation and remodeling in a murine emphysema model. IFN-γ was a potent stimulator of the CCR5 ligands macrophage inflammatory protein–1α/CCL-3 (MIP-1α/CCL-3), MIP-1β/CCL-4, and RANTES/CCL-5, among others. Antibody neutralization or null mutation of CCR5 decreased IFN-γ–induced inflammation, DNA injury, apoptosis, and alveolar remodeling. These interventions decreased the expression of select chemokines, including CCR5 ligands and MMP-9, and increased levels of secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor. They also decreased the expression and/or activation of Fas, FasL, TNF, caspase-3, -8, and -9, Bid, and Bax. In accordance with these findings, cigarette smoke induced pulmonary inflammation, DNA injury, apoptosis, and emphysema via an IFN-γ–dependent pathway(s), and a null mutation of CCR5 decreased these responses. These studies demonstrate that IFN-γ is a potent stimulator of CC and CXC chemokines and highlight the importance of CCR5 in the pathogenesis of IFN-γ–induced and cigarette smoke–induced inflammation, tissue remodeling, and emphysema. They also demonstrate that CCR5 is required for optimal IFN-γ stimulation of its own ligands, other chemokines, MMPs, caspases, and cell death regulators and the inhibition of antiproteases.
Tenascin (TN)-C is an extracellular matrix protein associated with injury and remodeling. Since Transforming Growth Factor (TGF)-β induces both TN-C and Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein (IGFBP)-3, we sought to determine the role of IGFBP-3 in mediating TGF-β’s effects on TN-C production and to assess the levels of TN-C in vivo in SSc-associated pulmonary fibrosis (PF).
Primary human lung fibroblasts were stimulated with TGF-β or IGFBP-3 in the presence or absence of specific siRNAs and chemical signaling cascade inhibitors. TN-C levels were examined in lung tissues of patients with Systemic Sclerosis (SSc)-associated pulmonary fibrosis using immunohistochemistry (IHC) and compared to those of normal donors. TN-C levels were quantified in serum from normal donors and patients with SSc with or without PF using ELISA.
IGFBP-3 mediated TGF-β induction of TN-C. Direct induction of TN-C by IGFBP-3 occurred in a p38K-dependent manner. TN-C levels were abundant in SSc lung tissues and localized to subepithelial layers of the distal airways. No TN-C was detectable around proximal airways. Patients with SSc-associated pulmonary fibrosis had significantly greater levels of circulating TN-C compared to patients without this complication. Longitudinal samples obtained from patients with SSc before and after the onset of PF showed increased levels post-PF.
IGFBP-3, which is overexpressed in fibrotic lungs, induces production of TN-C by subepithelial fibroblasts. The increased lung tissue levels of TN-C parallel levels detected in sera of patients with SSc and lung fibrosis, suggesting that TN-C may be a useful biomarker for SSc-PF.
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a fatal disease that is unresponsive to current therapies and characterized by excessive collagen deposition and subsequent fibrosis. While inflammatory cytokines, including interleukin (IL)-6, are elevated in IPF, the molecular mechanisms that underlie this disease are incompletely understood, although the development of fibrosis is believed to depend on canonical transforming growth factor (TGF)-β signalling. We examined bleomycin-induced inflammation and fibrosis in mice carrying a mutation in the shared IL-6 family receptor gp130. Using genetic complementation, we directly correlate the extent of IL-6-mediated, excessive Stat3 activity with inflammatory infiltrates in the lung and the severity of fibrosis in corresponding gp130757F mice. The extent of fibrosis was attenuated in B lymphocyte-deficient gp130757F;µMT−/− compound mutant mice, but fibrosis still occurred in their Smad3−/− counterparts consistent with the capacity of excessive Stat3 activity to induce collagen 1α1 gene transcription independently of canonical TGF-β/Smad3 signalling. These findings are of therapeutic relevance, since we confirmed abundant STAT3 activation in fibrotic lungs from IPF patients and showed that genetic reduction of Stat3 protected mice from bleomycin-induced lung fibrosis.
interleukin 6; pulmonary fibrosis; Smad3; Stat3; transforming growth factor beta
Chronic inflammation in asthmatic airways leads to bronchial hyper-responsiveness (BHR) and the development of structural changes. Important features of remodeling include the formation of subepithelial fibrosis due to increased collagen deposition in the reticular basement membrane. Transforming growth factor (TGF)-β might be a central mediator of tissue fibrosis and remodeling.
Materials and Methods:
Immunohistochemistry was used to measure collagen III deposition and TGF-β1 expression in biopsies from patients with long-standing asthma treated with inhaled corticosteroids, patients with recently diagnosed asthma, and control subjects. Computer-assisted image analysis was used to evaluate total basement membrane (TBM) thickness.
Asthmatics, particularly those with long-standing asthma, had thicker TBMs than healthy subjects. Collagen III deposition was comparable in the studied groups. BHR was not correlated with features of mucosal inflammation and was lower in steroid-treated patients with long-standing asthma than in subjects with newly diagnosed asthma untreated with steroids. Epithelial TGF-β1 expression negatively correlated with collagen III deposition and TBM thickness.
The study showed that TBM thickness, but not collagen III deposition, could be a differentiating marker of asthmatics of different disease duration and treatment. The lack of correlation between BHR and features of mucosal inflammation suggests the complexity of BHR development. Corticosteroids can reduce BHR in asthmatics, but it seems to be less effective in reducing subepithelial fibrosis. The role of epithelial TGF-β1 needs to be further investigated since the possibility that it plays a protective and anti-inflammatory role in asthmatic airways cannot be excluded.
bronchial hyper-responsiveness; subepithelial fibrosis; airway remodeling; transforming growth factor-β