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1.  miR-199a-5p Is Upregulated during Fibrogenic Response to Tissue Injury and Mediates TGFbeta-Induced Lung Fibroblast Activation by Targeting Caveolin-1 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(2):e1003291.
As miRNAs are associated with normal cellular processes, deregulation of miRNAs is thought to play a causative role in many complex diseases. Nevertheless, the precise contribution of miRNAs in fibrotic lung diseases, especially the idiopathic form (IPF), remains poorly understood. Given the poor response rate of IPF patients to current therapy, new insights into the pathogenic mechanisms controlling lung fibroblasts activation, the key cell type driving the fibrogenic process, are essential to develop new therapeutic strategies for this devastating disease. To identify miRNAs with potential roles in lung fibrogenesis, we performed a genome-wide assessment of miRNA expression in lungs from two different mouse strains known for their distinct susceptibility to develop lung fibrosis after bleomycin exposure. This led to the identification of miR-199a-5p as the best miRNA candidate associated with bleomycin response. Importantly, miR-199a-5p pulmonary expression was also significantly increased in IPF patients (94 IPF versus 83 controls). In particular, levels of miR-199a-5p were selectively increased in myofibroblasts from injured mouse lungs and fibroblastic foci, a histologic feature associated with IPF. Therefore, miR-199a-5p profibrotic effects were further investigated in cultured lung fibroblasts: miR-199a-5p expression was induced upon TGFβ exposure, and ectopic expression of miR-199a-5p was sufficient to promote the pathogenic activation of pulmonary fibroblasts including proliferation, migration, invasion, and differentiation into myofibroblasts. In addition, we demonstrated that miR-199a-5p is a key effector of TGFβ signaling in lung fibroblasts by regulating CAV1, a critical mediator of pulmonary fibrosis. Remarkably, aberrant expression of miR-199a-5p was also found in unilateral ureteral obstruction mouse model of kidney fibrosis, as well as in both bile duct ligation and CCl4-induced mouse models of liver fibrosis, suggesting that dysregulation of miR-199a-5p represents a general mechanism contributing to the fibrotic process. MiR-199a-5p thus behaves as a major regulator of tissue fibrosis with therapeutic potency to treat fibroproliferative diseases.
Author Summary
Fibrosis is the final common pathway in virtually all forms of chronic organ failure, including lung, liver, and kidney, and is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Fibrosis results from the excessive activity of fibroblasts, in particular a differentiated form known as myofibroblast that is responsible for the excessive and persistent accumulation of scar tissue and ultimately organ failure. Idiopathic Lung Fibrosis (IPF) is a chronic and often rapidly fatal pulmonary disorder of unknown origin characterized by fibrosis of the supporting framework (interstitium) of the lungs. Given the poor prognosis of IPF patients, new insights into the biology of (myo)fibroblasts is of major interest to develop new therapeutics aimed at reducing (myo)fibroblast activity to slow or even reverse disease progression, thereby preserving organ function and prolonging life. MicroRNAs (miRNAs), a class of non-coding RNA recently identified, are associated with normal cellular processes; and deregulation of miRNAs plays a causative role in a vast array of complex diseases. In this study, we identified a particular miRNA: miR-199a-5p that governs lung fibroblast activation and ultimately lung fibrosis. Overall we showed that miR-199a-5p is a major regulator of fibrosis with strong therapeutic potency to treat fibroproliferative diseases such as IPF.
PMCID: PMC3573122  PMID: 23459460
2.  Regulation of the effects of TGF-β1 by activation of latent TGF-β1 and differential expression of TGF-β receptors (TβR-I and TβR-II) in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis 
Thorax  2001;56(12):907-915.
BACKGROUND—Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is characterised by subpleural fibrosis that progresses to involve all areas of the lung. The expression of transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1), a potent regulator of connective tissue synthesis, is increased in lung sections of patients with IPF. TGF-β1 is generally released in a biologically latent form (L-TGF-β1). Before being biologically active, TGF-β must be converted to its active form and interact with both TGF-β receptors type I and II (TβR-I and TβR-II). TGF-β latency binding protein 1 (LTBP-1), which facilitates the release and activation of L-TGF-β1, is also important in the biology of TGF-β1.
METHODS—Open lung biopsy samples from patients with IPF and normal controls were examined to localise TβR-I, TβR-II, and LTBP-1. Alveolar macrophages (AM) and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid were examined using the CCL-64 bioassay to determine if TGF-β is present in its active form in the lungs of patients with IPF.
RESULTS—Immunoreactive L-TGF-β1 was present in all lung cells of patients with IPF except for fibroblasts in the subepithelial regions of honeycomb cysts. LTBP-1 was detected primarily in AM and epithelial cells lining honeycomb cysts in areas of advanced IPF. In normal lungs LTBP-1 immunoreactivity was observed in a few AM. AM from the upper and lower lobes of patients with IPF secreted 1.6 (0.6) fmol and 4.1 (1.9) fmol active TGF-β, respectively, while AM from the lower lobes of control patients secreted no active TGF-β (p⩽0.01 for TGF-β in the conditioned media from AM obtained from the lower lobes of IPF patients v normal controls). The difference in percentage active TGF-β secreted by AM from the lower lobes of patients with IPF and the lower lobes of control patients was significant (p⩽0.01), but the difference between the total TGF-β secreted from these lobes was not significant. The difference in active TGF-β in conditioned media of AM from the upper and lower lobes of patients with IPF was also not statistically significant. BAL fluid from the upper and lower lobes of patients with IPF contained 0.7 (0.2) fmol and 2.9 (1.2) fmol active TGF-β, respectively (p⩽0.03). The percentage of active TGF-β in the upper and lower lobes was 17.6 (1.0)% and 78.4 (1.6)%, respectively (p⩽0.03). In contrast, BAL fluid from control patients contained small amounts of L-TGF-β. Using immunostaining, both TβR-I and TβR-II were present on all cells of normal lungs but TβR-I was markedly reduced in most cells in areas of honeycomb cysts except for interstitial myofibroblasts in lungs of patients with IPF. TGF-β1 inhibits epithelial cell proliferation and a lack of TβR-I expression by epithelial cells lining honeycomb cysts would facilitate repair of the alveoli by epithelial cell proliferation. However, the presence of both TβRs on fibroblasts is likely to result in a response to TGF-β1 for synthesis of connective tissue proteins. Our findings show that biologically active TGF-β1 is only present in the lungs of patients with IPF. In addition, the effects of TGF-β1 on cells may be further regulated by the expression of TβRs.
CONCLUSION—Activation of L-TGF-β1 and the differential expression of TβRs may be important in the pathogenesis of remodelling and fibrosis in IPF.

PMCID: PMC1745982  PMID: 11713352
3.  MMP1 and MMP7 as Potential Peripheral Blood Biomarkers in Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(4):e93.
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a chronic progressive fibrotic lung disease associated with substantial morbidity and mortality. The objective of this study was to determine whether there is a peripheral blood protein signature in IPF and whether components of this signature may serve as biomarkers for disease presence and progression.
Methods and Findings
We analyzed the concentrations of 49 proteins in the plasma of 74 patients with IPF and in the plasma of 53 control individuals. We identified a combinatorial signature of five proteins—MMP7, MMP1, MMP8, IGFBP1, and TNFRSF1A—that was sufficient to distinguish patients from controls with a sensitivity of 98.6% (95% confidence interval [CI] 92.7%–100%) and specificity of 98.1% (95% CI 89.9%–100%). Increases in MMP1 and MMP7 were also observed in lung tissue and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid obtained from IPF patients. MMP7 and MMP1 plasma concentrations were not increased in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or sarcoidosis and distinguished IPF compared to subacute/chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis, a disease that may mimic IPF, with a sensitivity of 96.3% (95% CI 81.0%–100%) and specificity of 87.2% (95% CI 72.6%–95.7%). We verified our results in an independent validation cohort composed of patients with IPF, familial pulmonary fibrosis, subclinical interstitial lung disease (ILD), as well as with control individuals. MMP7 and MMP1 concentrations were significantly higher in IPF patients compared to controls in this cohort. Furthermore, MMP7 concentrations were elevated in patients with subclinical ILD and negatively correlated with percent predicted forced vital capacity (FVC%) and percent predicted carbon monoxide diffusing capacity (DLCO%).
Our experiments provide the first evidence for a peripheral blood protein signature in IPF to our knowledge. The two main components of this signature, MMP7 and MMP1, are overexpressed in the lung microenvironment and distinguish IPF from other chronic lung diseases. Additionally, increased MMP7 concentration may be indicative of asymptomatic ILD and reflect disease progression.
Naftali Kaminski and colleagues find increased levels of specific proteins in the bloodstream of individuals with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and suggest that these proteins may ultimately provide a biomarker for the disease.
Editors' Summary
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a serious disease in which the lungs become progressively scarred or thickened for unknown reasons. In healthy people, air is taken in through the mouth or nose and travels down the windpipe into tubes in the lungs called the airways. Each airway has many small branches that end in alveoli, tiny air sacs with thin walls that are surrounded by small blood vessels called capillaries. When air reaches the alveoli, the oxygen in it passes into the bloodstream and is taken to the organs of the body to keep them working. In IPF, the alveoli and the space around them (the “interstitial” area) gradually become scarred and thickened, which stops oxygen's movement into the bloodstream. When only small areas of the lung are scarred, IPF may cause no symptoms. But, as more of the lung becomes damaged, IPF eventually causes breathlessness, even when resting. There is no effective treatment for IPF, although steroids and drugs that suppress the body's immune system are often tried in an attempt to slow its progression. On average, half of the people with IPF die within three years of diagnosis, often from respiratory or heart failure.
Why Was This Study Done?
It can be difficult to diagnose IPF—there are many lung diseases with similar symptoms, including numerous other interstitial lung diseases—and currently, physicians can only follow the progression of IPF by repeatedly testing their patients' lung function or by doing multiple chest X-rays. If proteins could be identified whose level in blood indicated disease activity (so-called “peripheral blood biomarkers”), it would be easier to diagnose and monitor patients. In addition, the identification of such biomarkers might suggest new drug targets for the treatment of IPF. In this study, the researchers look for peripheral blood biomarkers in IPF by using a “multiplex analysis” system to measure the level of several proteins in patient blood samples simultaneously.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers measured the levels of 49 plasma proteins (plasma is the fluid part of blood) in 74 patients with IPF and 53 healthy people (controls) and used a technique called “recursive partitioning” to define a five-protein signature that distinguished patients from unaffected study participants (controls). Matrix metalloproteinase 7 (MMP7) and MMP1—the two plasma proteins whose levels were most increased in patients with IPF compared to controls—were key components of this signature. Concentrations of MMP7 and MMP1 were higher in bronchoalveolar lavage samples (fluid obtained by washing out the lungs with saline) and in lung tissue samples from patients with IPF than in similar samples taken from healthy individuals. Plasma concentrations of MMP7 and MMP1 were significantly higher in patients with IPF than in patients with hypersensitivity pneumonitis, an interstitial lung disease that mimics IPF, but not increased in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or sarcoidosis, two other lung diseases. In an independent validation group, patients with IPF and familial pulmonary fibrosis had increased plasma concentrations of MMP7 and MMP1 that correlated with the severity of their disease. In addition, MMP7 concentrations were raised in close relatives of people with familial pulmonary fibrosis who had normal lung function tests but some lung scarring.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide evidence for a protein signature in the blood for IPF and suggest MMP1 and MMP7 may be useful as biomarkers for IPF. These two matrix metalloproteinases have previously been suggested to be involved in the development of IPF. However, additional work is probably needed to confirm that increased plasma concentrations MMP7 and MMP1 are specific for IPF, since it may be that these markers will not distinguish IPF from other interstitial lung diseases.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Read a related PLoS Medicine Perspective article
The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia has a page on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (in English and Spanish) and on pulmonary fibrosis
The US National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and the British Lung Foundation also provide information on IPF for patients and relatives
Some of the researchers involved in this study provide more details about what might go wrong in IPF in a recent PLoS Medicine article
PMCID: PMC2346504  PMID: 18447576
4.  Yin Yang 1 Is a Novel Regulator of Pulmonary Fibrosis 
Rationale: The differentiation of fibroblasts into myofibroblasts is a cardinal feature of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). The transcription factor Yin Yang 1 (YY1) plays a role in the proliferation and differentiation of diverse cell types, but its role in fibrotic lung diseases is not known.
Objectives: To elucidate the mechanism by which YY1 regulates fibroblast differentiation and lung fibrosis.
Methods: Lung fibroblasts were cultured with transforming growth factor (TGF)-β or tumor necrosis factor-α. Nuclear factor (NF)-κB, YY1, and α-smooth muscle actin (SMA) were determined in protein, mRNA, and promoter reporter level. Lung fibroblasts and lung fibrosis were assessed in a partial YY1-deficient mouse and a YY1f/f conditional knockout mouse after being exposed to silica or bleomycin.
Measurements and Main Results: TGF-β and tumor necrosis factor-α up-regulated YY1 expression in lung fibroblasts. TGF-β–induced YY1 expression was dramatically decreased by an inhibitor of NF-κB, which blocked I-κB degradation. YY1 is significantly overexpressed in both human IPF and murine models of lung fibrosis, including in the aggregated pulmonary fibroblasts of fibrotic foci. Furthermore, the mechanism of fibrogenesis is that YY1 can up-regulate α-SMA expression in pulmonary fibroblasts. YY1-deficient (YY1+/−) mice were significantly protected from lung fibrosis, which was associated with attenuated α-SMA and collagen expression. Finally, decreasing YY1 expression through instilled adenovirus-cre in floxed-YY1f/f mice reduced lung fibrosis.
Conclusions: YY1 is overexpressed in fibroblasts in both human IPF and murine models in a NF-κB–dependent manner, and YY1 regulates fibrogenesis at least in part by increasing α-SMA and collagen expression. Decreasing YY1 expression may provide a new therapeutic strategy for pulmonary fibrosis.
PMCID: PMC3136995  PMID: 21169469
nuclear factor-κB; α-smooth muscle actin; idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
5.  Epithelial cell α3β1 integrin links β-catenin and Smad signaling to promote myofibroblast formation and pulmonary fibrosis 
Pulmonary fibrosis, in particular idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), results from aberrant wound healing and scarification. One population of fibroblasts involved in the fibrotic process is thought to originate from lung epithelial cells via epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Indeed, alveolar epithelial cells (AECs) undergo EMT in vivo during experimental fibrosis and ex vivo in response to TGF-β1. As the ECM critically regulates AEC responses to TGF-β1, we explored the role of the prominent epithelial integrin α3β1 in experimental fibrosis by generating mice with lung epithelial cell–specific loss of α3 integrin expression. These mice had a normal acute response to bleomycin injury, but they exhibited markedly decreased accumulation of lung myofibroblasts and type I collagen and did not progress to fibrosis. Signaling through β-catenin has been implicated in EMT; we found that in primary AECs, α3 integrin was required for β-catenin phosphorylation at tyrosine residue 654 (Y654), formation of the pY654–β-catenin/pSmad2 complex, and initiation of EMT, both in vitro and in vivo during the fibrotic phase following bleomycin injury. Finally, analysis of lung tissue from IPF patients revealed the presence of pY654–β-catenin/pSmad2 complexes and showed accumulation of pY654–β-catenin in myofibroblasts. These findings demonstrate epithelial integrin–dependent profibrotic crosstalk between β-catenin and Smad signaling and support the hypothesis that EMT is an important contributor to pathologic fibrosis.
PMCID: PMC2613463  PMID: 19104148
6.  Gremlin-mediated Decrease in Bone Morphogenetic Protein Signaling Promotes Pulmonary Fibrosis 
Rationale: Members of the transforming growth factor (TGF)-β superfamily, including TGF-βs and bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs), are essential for the maintenance of tissue homeostasis and regeneration after injury. We have observed that the BMP antagonist, gremlin, is highly up-regulated in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).
Objectives: To investigate the role of gremlin in the regulation of BMP signaling in pulmonary fibrosis.
Methods: Progressive asbestos-induced fibrosis in the mouse was used as a model of human IPF. TGF-β and BMP expression and signaling activities were measured from murine and human fibrotic lungs. The mechanism of gremlin induction was analyzed in cultured lung epithelial cells. In addition, the possible therapeutic role of gremlin inhibition was tested by administration of BMP-7 to mice after asbestos exposure.
Measurements and Main Results: Gremlin mRNA levels were up-regulated in the asbestos-exposed mouse lungs, which is in agreement with the human IPF biopsy data. Down-regulation of BMP signaling was demonstrated by reduced levels of Smad1/5/8 and enhanced Smad2 phosphorylation in asbestos-treated lungs. Accordingly, analyses of cultured human bronchial epithelial cells indicated that asbestos-induced gremlin expression could be prevented by inhibitors of the TGF-β receptor and also by inhibitors of the mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase/extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase pathways. BMP-7 treatment significantly reduced hydroxyproline contents in the asbestos-treated mice.
Conclusions: The TGF-β and BMP signaling balance is important for lung regenerative events and is significantly perturbed in pulmonary fibrosis. Rescue of BMP signaling activity may represent a potential beneficial strategy for treating human pulmonary fibrosis.
PMCID: PMC2218851  PMID: 17975199
gremlin; pulmonary fibrosis; bone morphogenetic protein; transforming growth factor-β
7.  Lactic Acid Is Elevated in Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and Induces Myofibroblast Differentiation via pH-Dependent Activation of Transforming Growth Factor-β 
Rationale: Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a complex disease for which the pathogenesis is poorly understood. In this study, we identified lactic acid as a metabolite that is elevated in the lung tissue of patients with IPF.
Objectives: This study examines the effect of lactic acid on myofibroblast differentiation and pulmonary fibrosis.
Methods: We used metabolomic analysis to examine cellular metabolism in lung tissue from patients with IPF and determined the effects of lactic acid and lactate dehydrogenase-5 (LDH5) overexpression on myofibroblast differentiation and transforming growth factor (TGF)-β activation in vitro.
Measurements and Main Results: Lactic acid concentrations from healthy and IPF lung tissue were determined by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy; α-smooth muscle actin, calponin, and LDH5 expression were assessed by Western blot of cell culture lysates. Lactic acid and LDH5 were significantly elevated in IPF lung tissue compared with controls. Physiologic concentrations of lactic acid induced myofibroblast differentiation via activation of TGF-β. TGF-β induced expression of LDH5 via hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF1α). Importantly, overexpression of both HIF1α and LDH5 in human lung fibroblasts induced myofibroblast differentiation and synergized with low-dose TGF-β to induce differentiation. Furthermore, inhibition of both HIF1α and LDH5 inhibited TGF-β–induced myofibroblast differentiation.
Conclusions: We have identified the metabolite lactic acid as an important mediator of myofibroblast differentiation via a pH-dependent activation of TGF-β. We propose that the metabolic milieu of the lung, and potentially other tissues, is an important driving force behind myofibroblast differentiation and potentially the initiation and progression of fibrotic disorders.
PMCID: PMC3480515  PMID: 22923663
lactate; idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis; myofibroblast; lactate dehydrogenase; hypoxia-inducible factor 1α
8.  Cartilage Oligomeric Matrix Protein in Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e83120.
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a progressive and life threatening disease with median survival of 2.5–3 years. The IPF lung is characterized by abnormal lung remodeling, epithelial cell hyperplasia, myofibroblast foci formation, and extracellular matrix deposition. Analysis of gene expression microarray data revealed that cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP), a non-collagenous extracellular matrix protein is among the most significantly up-regulated genes (Fold change 13, p-value <0.05) in IPF lungs. This finding was confirmed at the mRNA level by nCounter® expression analysis in additional 115 IPF lungs and 154 control lungs as well as at the protein level by western blot analysis. Immunohistochemical analysis revealed that COMP was expressed in dense fibrotic regions of IPF lungs and co-localized with vimentin and around pSMAD3 expressing cells. Stimulation of normal human lung fibroblasts with TGF-β1 induced an increase in COMP mRNA and protein expression. Silencing COMP in normal human lung fibroblasts significantly inhibited cell proliferation and negatively impacted the effects of TGF-β1 on COL1A1 and PAI1. COMP protein concentration measured by ELISA assay was significantly increased in serum of IPF patients compared to controls. Analysis of serum COMP concentrations in 23 patients who had prospective blood draws revealed that COMP levels increased in a time dependent fashion and correlated with declines in force vital capacity (FVC). Taken together, our results should encourage more research into the potential use of COMP as a biomarker for disease activity and TGF-β1 activity in patients with IPF. Hence, studies that explore modalities that affect COMP expression, alleviate extracellular matrix rigidity and lung restriction in IPF and interfere with the amplification of TGF-β1 signaling should be persuaded.
PMCID: PMC3869779  PMID: 24376648
9.  Fibrotic Myofibroblasts Manifest Genome-Wide Derangements of Translational Control 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(9):e3220.
As a group, fibroproliferative disorders of the lung, liver, kidney, heart, vasculature and integument are common, progressive and refractory to therapy. They can emerge following toxic insults, but are frequently idiopathic. Their enigmatic propensity to resist therapy and progress to organ failure has focused attention on the myofibroblast–the primary effector of the fibroproliferative response. We have recently shown that aberrant beta 1 integrin signaling in fibrotic fibroblasts results in defective PTEN function, unrestrained Akt signaling and subsequent activation of the translation initiation machinery. How this pathological integrin signaling alters the gene expression pathway has not been elucidated.
Using a systems approach to study this question in a prototype fibrotic disease, Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF); here we show organized changes in the gene expression pathway of primary lung myofibroblasts that persist for up to 9 sub-cultivations in vitro. When comparing IPF and control myofibroblasts in a 3-dimensional type I collagen matrix, more genes differed at the level of ribosome recruitment than at the level of transcript abundance, indicating pathological translational control as a major characteristic of IPF myofibroblasts. To determine the effect of matrix state on translational control, myofibroblasts were permitted to contract the matrix. Ribosome recruitment in control myofibroblasts was relatively stable. In contrast, IPF cells manifested large alterations in the ribosome recruitment pattern. Pathological studies suggest an epithelial origin for IPF myofibroblasts through the epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT). In accord with this, we found systems-level indications for TGF-β -driven EMT as one source of IPF myofibroblasts.
These findings establish the power of systems level genome-wide analysis to provide mechanistic insights into fibrotic disorders such as IPF. Our data point to derangements of translational control downstream of aberrant beta 1 integrin signaling as a fundamental component of IPF pathobiology and indicates that TGF-β -driven EMT is one source for IPF myofibroblasts.
PMCID: PMC2528966  PMID: 18795102
10.  Alveolar epithelial cells in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis display upregulation of TRAIL, DR4 and DR5 expression with simultaneous preferential over-expression of pro-apoptotic marker p53 
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a progressive, debilitating, and fatal lung disease of unknown aetiology with no current cure. The pathogenesis of IPF remains unclear but repeated alveolar epithelial cell (AEC) injuries and subsequent apoptosis are believed to be among the initiating/ongoing triggers. However, the precise mechanism of apoptotic induction is hitherto elusive. In this study, we investigated expression of a panel of pro-apoptotic and cell cycle regulatory proteins in 21 IPF and 19 control lung tissue samples. We reveal significant upregulation of the apoptosis-inducing ligand TRAIL and its cognate receptors DR4 and DR5 in AEC within active lesions of IPF lungs. This upregulation was accompanied by pro-apoptotic protein p53 overexpression. In contrast, myofibroblasts within the fibroblastic foci of IPF lungs exhibited high TRAIL, DR4 and DR5 expression but negligible p53 expression. Similarly, p53 expression was absent or negligible in IPF and control alveolar macrophages and lymphocytes. No significant differences in TRAIL expression were noted in these cell types between IPF and control lungs. However, DR4 and DR5 upregulation was detected in IPF alveolar macrophages and lymphocytes. The marker of cellular senescence p21WAF1 was upregulated within affected AEC in IPF lungs. Cell cycle regulatory proteins Cyclin D1 and SOCS3 were significantly enhanced in AEC within the remodelled fibrotic areas of IPF lungs but expression was negligible in myofibroblasts. Taken together these findings suggest that, within the remodelled fibrotic areas of IPF, AEC can display markers associated with proliferation, senescence, and apoptotosis, where TRAIL could drive the apoptotic response. Clear understanding of disease processes and identification of therapeutic targets will direct us to develop effective therapies for IPF.
PMCID: PMC3925899  PMID: 24551275
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis; TRAIL; DR4; DR5; immunohistochemistry; p53; p21WAF1
11.  Caveolin-1, TGF-β receptor internalization, and the pathogenesis of systemic sclerosis 
Current opinion in rheumatology  2008;20(6):713-719.
To review the scientific literature supporting the participation of caveolin-1 in the pathogenesis of tissue fibrosis and that modulation of the caveolin-1 pathway may represent a novel treatment for systemic sclerosis (SSc) and other fibrotic diseases.
Recent Findings
Caveolin-1 plays an important role in the regulation of transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) signaling owing to its participation in TGF-β receptor (TβR) internalization. TβR internalized through caveolin-1 lipid rafts undergoes rapid degradation, effectively decreasing TGF-β signaling. Studies have shown that caveolin-1 knockdown in vitro markedly increased collagen gene expression in normal human lung fibroblasts. Caveolin-1 was reduced in affected SSc lungs and skin and in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) lung tissues and fibroblasts. Increasing caveolin-1 expression markedly improved bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis. Restoration of caveolin bioavailability employing penetratin, a cell-permeable peptide carrier for a bioactive caveolin-1 fragment abrogated TGF-β activation of cultured human dermal fibroblasts. Systemic administration of penetratin-caveolin-1 peptide to mice with bleomycin-induced lung fibrosis reduced fibrosis.
Caveolin-1 plays an important role in the regulation of TGF-β signaling and participates in the pathogenesis of SSc and IPF. Restoration of caveolin function employing active caveolin-1 fragments coupled to cell-permeable carrier peptides may represent a novel approach for their treatment.
PMCID: PMC2732362  PMID: 18949888
Caveolin-1; TGF-β; fibrosis; collagen; systemic sclerosis; idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
12.  Predisposition for Disrepair in the Aged Lung 
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a devastating progressive lung disease with an average survival of only 3 to 5 years. The mechanisms underlying the initiation and progression of IPF are poorly understood, and treatments available have only modest effect on disease progression. Interestingly, the incidence of IPF is approximately 60 times more common in individuals aged 75 years and older, but the mechanism by which aging promotes fibrosis is unclear. The authors hypothesized that aged lungs have a profibrotic phenotype that render it susceptible to disrepair after injury.
Young and old mice were treated with bleomycin to examine disrepair in the aged lung. In addition, uninjured young and old mouse lungs were analyzed for transforming growth factor-beta 1 (TGF-β1) production, extracellular matrix composition and lung fibroblast phenotype. Lung fibroblasts were treated with a DNA methyltransferase inhibitor to examine the potential epigenetic mechanisms involved in age-associated phenotypic alterations.
The lungs of old mice showed worse fibrosis after bleomycin-induced injury compared with the lungs from young mice. At baseline, aged lungs expressed a profibrotic phenotype characterized by increased mRNA expression for fibronectin extracellular domain A (Fn-EDA) and the matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) MMP-2 and MMP-9. Old lungs also expressed higher levels of TGF-β receptor 1 and TGF-β1 mRNA, protein and activity as determined by increased Smad3 expression, protein phosphorylation and DNA binding. Lung fibroblasts harvested from aged lungs showed reduced expression of the surface molecule Thy-1, a finding also implicated in lung fibrosis; the latter did not seem related to Thy-1 gene methylation.
Altogether, aged lungs manifest a profibrotic phenotype characterized by enhanced fibronectin extracellular domain A and MMP expression and increased TGF-β1 expression and signaling and are populated by Thy-1–negative fibroblasts, all implicated in the pathogenesis of lung fibrosis.
PMCID: PMC3395069  PMID: 22173045
Lung fibrosis; Aging; Injury; Extracellular matrix; Lung fibroblast
13.  Protective Role of Andrographolide in Bleomycin-Induced Pulmonary Fibrosis in Mice 
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a chronic devastating disease with poor prognosis. Multiple pathological processes, including inflammation, epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT), apoptosis, and oxidative stress, are involved in the pathogenesis of IPF. Recent findings suggested that nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) is constitutively activated in IPF and acts as a central regulator in the pathogenesis of IPF. The aim of our study was to reveal the value of andrographolide on bleomycin-induced inflammation and fibrosis in mice. The indicated dosages of andrographolide were administered in mice with bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis. On day 21, cell counts of total cells, macrophages, neutrophils and lymphocytes, alone with TNF-α in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) were measured. HE staining and Masson’s trichrome (MT) staining were used to observe the histological alterations of lungs. The Ashcroft score and hydroxyproline content of lungs were also measured. TGF-β1 and α-SMA mRNA and protein were analyzed. Activation of NF-κB was determined by western blotting and electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA). On day 21 after bleomycin stimulation, andrographolide dose-dependently inhibited the inflammatory cells and TNF-α in BALF. Meanwhile, our data demonstrated that the Ashcroft score and hydroxyproline content of the bleomycin-stimulated lung were reduced by andrographolide administration. Furthermore, andrographloide suppressed TGF-β1 and α-SMA mRNA and protein expression in bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis. Meanwhile, andrographolide significantly dose-dependently inhibited the ratio of phospho-NF-κB p65/total NF-κB p65 and NF-κB p65 DNA binding activities. Our findings indicate that andrographolide compromised bleomycin-induced pulmonary inflammation and fibrosis possibly through inactivation of NF-κB. Andrographolide holds promise as a novel drug to treat the devastating disease of pulmonary fibrosis.
PMCID: PMC3876064  PMID: 24300094
andrographolide; bleomycin (BLM); pulmonary fibrosis; transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1); alpha-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA); nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB)
14.  Type V Collagen Induced Tolerance Suppresses Collagen Deposition, TGF-β and Associated Transcripts in Pulmonary Fibrosis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e76451.
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a fatal interstitial lung disease characterized by progressive scarring and matrix deposition. Recent reports highlight an autoimmune component in IPF pathogenesis. We have reported anti-col(V) immunity in IPF patients. The objective of our study was to determine the specificity of col(V) expression profile and anti-col(V) immunity relative to col(I) in clinical IPF and the efficacy of nebulized col(V) in pre-clinical IPF models.
Col(V) and col(I) expression profile was analyzed in normal human and IPF tissues. C57-BL6 mice were intratracheally instilled with bleomycin (0.025 U) followed by col(V) nebulization at pre-/post-fibrotic stage and analyzed for systemic and local responses.
Compared to normal lungs, IPF lungs had higher protein and transcript expression of the alpha 1 chain of col(V) and col(I). Systemic anti-col(V) antibody concentrations, but not of anti-col(I), were higher in IPF patients. Nebulized col(V), but not col(I), prevented bleomycin-induced fibrosis, collagen deposition, and myofibroblast differentiation. Col(V) treatment suppressed systemic levels of anti-col(V) antibodies, IL-6 and TNF-α; and local Il-17a transcripts. Compared to controls, nebulized col(V)-induced tolerance abrogated antigen-specific proliferation in mediastinal lymphocytes and production of IL-17A, IL-6, TNF-α and IFN-γ. In a clinically relevant established fibrosis model, nebulized col(V) decreased collagen deposition. mRNA array revealed downregulation of genes specific to fibrosis (Tgf-β, Il-1β, Pdgfb), matrix (Acta2, Col1a2, Col3a1, Lox, Itgb1/6, Itga2/3) and members of the TGF-β superfamily (Tgfbr1/2, Smad2/3, Ltbp1, Serpine1, Nfkb/Sp1/Cebpb).
Anti-col(V) immunity is pathogenic in IPF, and col(V)-induced tolerance abrogates bleomycin-induced fibrogenesis and down regulates TGF- β-related signaling pathways.
PMCID: PMC3804565  PMID: 24204629
15.  Lung Myofibroblasts Are Characterized by Down-Regulated Cyclooxygenase-2 and Its Main Metabolite, Prostaglandin E2 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65445.
Prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), the main metabolite of cyclooxygenase (COX), is a well-known anti-fibrotic agent. Moreover, myofibroblasts expressing α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA), fibroblast expansion and epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) are critical to the pathogenesis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Our aim was to investigate the expression of COX-2 and PGE2 in human lung myofibroblasts and establish whether fibroblast-myofibroblast transition (FMT) and EMT are associated with COX-2 and PGE2 down-regulation.
Fibroblasts obtained from IPF patients (n = 6) and patients undergoing spontaneous pneumothorax (control, n = 6) and alveolar epithelial cell line A549 were incubated with TGF-β1 and FMT and EMT markers were evaluated. COX-2 and α-SMA expression, PGE2 secretion and cell proliferation were measured after IL-1β and PGE2 incubation.
Myofibroblasts from both control and IPF fibroblast cultures stimulated with IL-1β showed no COX-2 expression. IPF fibroblasts showed increased myofibroblast population and reduced COX-2 expression in response to IL-1β. TGF-β1 increased the number of myofibroblasts in a time-dependent manner. In contrast, TGF-β1 induced slight COX-2 expression at 4 h (without increase in myofibroblasts) and 24 h, but not at 72 h. Both IPF and control cultures incubated with TGF-β1 for 72 h showed diminished COX-2 induction, PGE2 secretion and α-SMA expression after IL-1β addition. The latter decreased proliferation in fibroblasts but not in myofibroblasts. A549 cells incubated with TGF-β1 for 72 h showed down-regulated COX-2 expression and low basal PGE2 secretion in response to IL-1β. Immuno-histochemical analysis of IPF lung tissue showed no COX-2 immuno-reactivity in myofibroblast foci.
Myofibroblasts are associated with COX-2 down-regulation and reduced PGE2 production, which could be crucial in IPF development and progression.
PMCID: PMC3670886  PMID: 23755232
16.  The Role of PPARs in Lung Fibrosis 
PPAR Research  2007;2007:71323.
Pulmonary fibrosis is a group of disorders characterized by accumulation of scar tissue in the lung interstitium, resulting in loss of alveolar function, destruction of normal lung architecture, and respiratory distress. Some types of fibrosis respond to corticosteroids, but for many there are no effective treatments. Prognosis varies but can be poor. For example, patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) have a median survival of only 2.9 years. Prognosis may be better in patients with some other types of pulmonary fibrosis, and there is variability in survival even among individuals with biopsy-proven IPF. Evidence is accumulating that the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) play important roles in regulating processes related to fibrogenesis, including cellular differentiation, inflammation, and wound healing. PPARα agonists, including the hypolidipemic fibrate drugs, inhibit the production of collagen by hepatic stellate cells and inhibit liver, kidney, and cardiac fibrosis in animal models. In the mouse model of lung fibrosis induced by bleomycin, a PPARα agonist significantly inhibited the fibrotic response, while PPARα knockout mice developed more serious fibrosis. PPARβ/δ appears to play a critical role in regulating the transition from inflammation to wound healing. PPARβ/δ agonists inhibit lung fibroblast proliferation and enhance the antifibrotic properties of PPARγ agonists. PPARγ ligands oppose the profibrotic effect of TGF-β, which induces differentiation of fibroblasts to myofibroblasts, a critical effector cell in fibrosis. PPARγ ligands, including the thiazolidinedione class of antidiabetic drugs, effectively inhibit lung fibrosis in vitro and in animal models. The clinical availability of potent and selective PPARα and PPARγ agonists should facilitate rapid development of successful treatment strategies based on current and ongoing research.
PMCID: PMC1940051  PMID: 17710235
17.  Acute exacerbations in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis 
Respiratory Research  2013;14(1):86.
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a chronic, fibrosing interstitial lung disease that primarily affects older adults. Median survival after diagnosis is 2–3 years. The clinical course of IPF may include periods of acute deterioration in respiratory function, which are termed acute exacerbations of IPF (AEx-IPF) when a cause cannot be identified. AEx-IPF may represent a sudden acceleration of the underlying disease process of IPF, or a biologically distinct pathological process that is clinically undiagnosed. An AEx-IPF can occur at any time during the course of IPF and may be the presenting manifestation. The incidence of AEx-IPF is hard to establish due to variation in the methodology used to assess AEx-IPF in different studies, but AEx-IPF are believed to occur in between 5 and 10% of patients with IPF every year. Risk factors for AEx-IPF are unclear, but there is evidence that poorer lung function increases the risk of an AEx-IPF and reduces the chances of a patient surviving an AEx-IPF. The presence of comorbidities such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and pulmonary hypertension may also increase the risk of an AEx-IPF. AEx-IPF are associated with high morbidity and mortality. Patients who experience an AEx-IPF show a worsened prognosis and AEx-IPF are believed to reflect disease progression in IPF. Current treatments for AEx-IPF have only limited data to support their effectiveness. The latest international treatment guidelines state that supportive care remains the mainstay of treatment for AEx-IPF, but also give a weak recommendation for the treatment of the majority of patients with AEx-IPF with corticosteroids. There is emerging evidence from clinical trials of investigational therapies that chronic treatment of IPF may reduce the incidence of AEx-IPF. Additional clinical trials investigating this are underway.
PMCID: PMC3765544  PMID: 23964926
Acute exacerbation; Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF); Impact; Management; Prevention; Treatment
18.  Mononuclear Phagocytes and Airway Epithelial Cells: Novel Sources of Matrix Metalloproteinase-8 (MMP-8) in Patients with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e97485.
Matrix metalloproteinase-8 (MMP-8) promotes lung fibrotic responses to bleomycin in mice. Although prior studies reported that MMP-8 levels are increased in plasma and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) samples from IPF patients, neither the bioactive forms nor the cellular sources of MMP-8 in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) patients have been identified. It is not known whether MMP-8 expression is dys-regulated in IPF leukocytes or whether MMP-8 plasma levels correlate with IPF outcomes. Our goal was to address these knowledge gaps.
We measured MMP-8 levels and forms in blood and lung samples from IPF patients versus controls using ELISAs, western blotting, and qPCR, and assessed whether MMP-8 plasma levels in 73 IPF patients correlate with rate of lung function decline and mortality. We used immunostaining to localize MMP-8 expression in IPF lungs. We quantified MMP-8 levels and forms in blood leukocytes from IPF patients versus controls.
IPF patients have increased BALF, whole lung, and plasma levels of soluble MMP-8 protein. Active MMP-8 is the main form elevated in IPF lungs. MMP-8 mRNA levels are increased in monocytes from IPF patients, but IPF patients and controls have similar levels of MMP-8 in PMNs. Surprisingly, macrophages and airway epithelial cells are the main cells expressing MMP-8 in IPF lungs. Plasma and BALF MMP-8 levels do not correlate with decline in lung function and/or mortality in IPF patients.
Blood and lung MMP-8 levels are increased in IPF patients. Active MMP-8 is the main form elevated in IPF lungs. Surprisingly, blood monocytes, lung macrophages, and airway epithelial cells are the main cells in which MMP-8 is upregulated in IPF patients. Plasma and BALF MMP-8 levels are unlikely to serve as a prognostic biomarker for IPF patients. These results provide new information about the expression patterns of MMP-8 in IPF patients.
PMCID: PMC4020836  PMID: 24828408
19.  Epigenetic Regulation of miR-17∼92 Contributes to the Pathogenesis of Pulmonary Fibrosis 
Rationale: Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a disease of progressive lung fibrosis with a high mortality rate. In organ repair and remodeling, epigenetic events are important. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) regulate gene expression post-transcriptionally and can target epigenetic molecules important in DNA methylation. The miR-17∼92 miRNA cluster is critical for lung development and lung epithelial cell homeostasis and is predicted to target fibrotic genes and DNA methyltransferase (DNMT)-1 expression.
Objectives: We investigated the miR-17∼92 cluster expression and its role in regulating DNA methylation events in IPF lung tissue.
Methods: Expression and DNA methylation patterns of miR-17∼92 were determined in human IPF lung tissue and fibroblasts and fibrotic mouse lung tissue. The relationship between the miR-17∼92 cluster and DNMT-1 expression was examined in vitro. Using a murine model of pulmonary fibrosis, we examined the therapeutic potential of the demethylating agent, 5′-aza-2′-deoxycytidine.
Measurements and Main Results: Compared with control samples, miR-17∼92 expression was reduced in lung biopsies and lung fibroblasts from patients with IPF, whereas DNMT-1 expression and methylation of the miR-17∼92 promoter was increased. Several miRNAs from the miR-17∼92 cluster targeted DNMT-1 expression resulting in a negative feedback loop. Similarly, miR-17∼92 expression was reduced in the lungs of bleomycin-treated mice. Treatment with 5′-aza-2′-deoxycytidine in a murine bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis model reduced fibrotic gene and DNMT-1 expression, enhanced miR-17∼92 cluster expression, and attenuated pulmonary fibrosis.
Conclusions: This study provides insight into the pathobiology of IPF and identifies a novel epigenetic feedback loop between miR-17∼92 and DNMT-1 in lung fibrosis.
PMCID: PMC3603596  PMID: 23306545
microRNA; miR-17∼92; pulmonary fibrosis; DNA methylation; DNMT-1
20.  Transforming Growth Factor-β1 Downregulates Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor-D Expression in Human Lung Fibroblasts via the Jun NH2-Terminal Kinase Signaling Pathway 
Molecular Medicine  2014;20(1):120-134.
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-D, a member of the VEGF family, induces both angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis by activating VEGF receptor-2 (VEGFR-2) and VEGFR-3 on the surface of endothelial cells. Transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1 has been shown to stimulate VEGF-A expression in human lung fibroblast via the Smad3 signaling pathway and to induce VEGF-C in human proximal tubular epithelial cells. However, the effects of TGF-β1 on VEGF-D regulation are unknown. To investigate the regulation of VEGF-D, human lung fibroblasts were studied under pro-fibrotic conditions in vitro and in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) lung tissue. We demonstrate that TGF-β1 downregulates VEGF-D expression in a dose- and time-dependent manner in human lung fibroblasts. This TGF-β1 effect can be abolished by inhibitors of TGF-β type I receptor kinase and Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK), but not by Smad3 knockdown. In addition, VEGF-D knockdown in human lung fibroblasts induces G1/S transition and promotes cell proliferation. Importantly, VEGF-D protein expression is decreased in lung homogenates from IPF patients compared with control lung. In IPF lung sections, fibroblastic foci show very weak VEGF-D immunoreactivity, whereas VEGF-D is abundantly expressed within alveolar interstitial cells in control lung. Taken together, our data identify a novel mechanism for downstream signal transduction induced by TGF-β1 in lung fibroblasts, through which they may mediate tissue remodeling in IPF.
PMCID: PMC3960396  PMID: 24515257
21.  Negative Regulation of Myofibroblast Differentiation by PTEN (Phosphatase and Tensin Homolog Deleted on Chromosome 10) 
Rationale: Myofibroblasts are primary effector cells in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Defining mechanisms of myofibroblast differentiation may be critical to the development of novel therapeutic agents.
Objective: To show that myofibroblast differentiation is regulated by phosphatase and tensin homolog deleted on chromosome 10 (PTEN) activity in vivo, and to identify a potential mechanism by which this occurs.
Methods: We used tissue sections of surgical lung biopsies from patients with IPF to localize expression of PTEN and α–smooth muscle actin (α-SMA). We used cell culture of pten−/− and wild-type fibroblasts, as well as adenoviral strategies and pharmacologic inhibitors, to determine the mechanism by which PTEN inhibits α-SMA, fibroblast proliferation, and collagen production.
Results: In human lung specimens of IPF, myofibroblasts within fibroblastic foci demonstrated diminished PTEN expression. Furthermore, inhibition of PTEN in mice worsened bleomycin-induced fibrosis. In pten−/− fibroblasts, and in normal fibroblasts in which PTEN was inhibited, α-SMA, proliferation, and collagen production was upregulated. Addition of transforming growth factor-β to wild-type cells, but not pten−/− cells, resulted in increased α-SMA expression in a time-dependent fashion. In pten−/− cells, reconstitution of PTEN decreased α-SMA expression, proliferation, and collagen production, whereas overexpression of PTEN in wild-type cells inhibited transforming growth factor-β–induced myofibroblast differentiation. It was observed that both the protein and lipid phosphatase actions of PTEN were capable of modulating the myofibroblast phenotype.
Conclusions: The results indicate that in IPF, myofibroblasts have diminished PTEN expression. Inhibition of PTEN in vivo promotes fibrosis, and PTEN inhibits myofibroblast differentiation in vitro.
PMCID: PMC1434700  PMID: 16179636
fibrosis; myofibroblast; phosphatase; PTEN; smooth muscle actin
22.  Sorafenib ameliorates bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis: potential roles in the inhibition of epithelial–mesenchymal transition and fibroblast activation 
Chen, Y-L | Zhang, X | Bai, J | Gai, L | Ye, X-L | Zhang, L | Xu, Q | Zhang, Y-X | Xu, L | Li, H-P | Ding, X
Cell Death & Disease  2013;4(6):e665-.
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a serious progressive and irreversible lung disease with unknown etiology and few treatment options. This disease was once thought to be a chronic inflammatory-driven process, but it is increasingly recognized that the epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) contributes to the cellular origin of fibroblast accumulation in response to injury. During the pathogenesis of pulmonary fibrotic diseases, transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) signaling is considered a pivotal inducer of EMT and fibroblast activation, and a number of therapeutic interventions that interfere with TGF-β signaling have been developed to reverse established fibrosis. However, efficient and well-tolerated antifibrotic agents are not currently available. Previously, we reported the identification of sorafenib to antagonize TGF-β signaling in mouse hepatocytes in vitro. In this manuscript, we continued to evaluate the antifibrotic effects of sorafenib on bleomycin (BLM)-induced pulmonary fibrosis in mice. We further demonstrated that sorafenib not only profoundly inhibited TGF-β1-induced EMT in alveolar epithelial cells, but also simultaneously reduced the proliferation and collagen synthesis in fibroblasts. Additionally, we presented in vivo evidence that sorafenib inhibited the symptoms of BLM-mediated EMT and fibroblast activation in mice, warranting the therapeutic potential of this drug for patients with IPF.
PMCID: PMC3698540  PMID: 23764846
sorafenib; TGF-β signaling; pulmonary fibrosis; EMT; fibroblast activation
23.  RhoA signaling modulates cyclin D1 expression in human lung fibroblasts; implications for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis 
Respiratory Research  2006;7(1):88.
Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) is a debilitating disease characterized by exaggerated extracellular matrix deposition and aggressive lung structural remodeling. Disease pathogenesis is driven by fibroblastic foci formation, consequent on growth factor overexpression and myofibroblast proliferation. We have previously shown that both CTGF overexpression and myofibroblast formation in IPF cell lines are dependent on RhoA signaling. As RhoA-mediated regulation is also involved in cell cycle progression, we hypothesise that this pathway is key to lung fibroblast turnover through modulation of cyclin D1 kinetic expression.
Cyclin D1 expression was compared in primary IPF patient-derived fibroblasts and equivalent normal control cells. Quantitative real time PCR was employed to examine relative expression levels of cyclin D1 mRNA; protein expression was confirmed by western blotting. Effects of Rho signaling were investigated using transient transfection of constitutively active and dominant negative RhoA constructs as well as pharmacological inhibitors. Cellular proliferation of lung fibroblasts was determined by BrdU incorporation ELISA. To further explore RhoA regulation of cyclin D1 in lung fibroblasts and associated cell cycle progression, an established Rho inhibitor, Simvastatin, was incorporated in our studies.
Cyclin D1 expression was upregulated in IPF compared to normal lung fibroblasts under exponential growth conditions (p < 0.05). Serum deprivation inhibited cyclin D1 expression, which was restored following treatment with fibrogenic growth factors (TGF-β1 and CTGF). RhoA inhibition, using a dominant negative mutant and a pharmacological inhibitor (C3 exotoxin), suppressed levels of cyclin D1 mRNA and protein in IPF fibroblasts, with significant abrogation of cell turnover (p < 0.05). Furthermore, Simvastatin dose-dependently inhibited fibroblast cyclin D1 gene and protein expression, inducing G1 cell cycle arrest. Similar trends were observed in control experiments using normal lung fibroblasts, though exhibited responses were lower in magnitude.
These findings report for the first time that cyclin D1 expression is deregulated in IPF through a RhoA dependent mechanism that influences lung fibroblast proliferation. This potentially unravels new molecular targets for future anti-IPF strategies; accordingly, Simvastatin inhibition of Rho-mediated cyclin D1 expression in IPF fibroblasts merits further exploitation.
PMCID: PMC1513217  PMID: 16776827
24.  Galectin-1 Binds to Influenza Virus and Ameliorates Influenza Virus Pathogenesis ▿  
Journal of Virology  2011;85(19):10010-10020.
Innate immune response is important for viral clearance during influenza virus infection. Galectin-1, which belongs to S-type lectins, contains a conserved carbohydrate recognition domain that recognizes galactose-containing oligosaccharides. Since the envelope proteins of influenza virus are highly glycosylated, we studied the role of galectin-1 in influenza virus infection in vitro and in mice. We found that galectin-1 was upregulated in the lungs of mice during influenza virus infection. There was a positive correlation between galectin-1 levels and viral loads during the acute phase of viral infection. Cells treated with recombinant human galectin-1 generated lower viral yields after influenza virus infection. Galectin-1 could directly bind to the envelope glycoproteins of influenza A/WSN/33 virus and inhibit its hemagglutination activity and infectivity. It also bound to different subtypes of influenza A virus with micromolar dissociation constant (Kd) values and protected cells against influenza virus-induced cell death. We used nanoparticle, surface plasmon resonance analysis and transmission electron microscopy to further demonstrate the direct binding of galectin-1 to influenza virus. More importantly, we show for the first time that intranasal treatment of galectin-1 could enhance survival of mice against lethal challenge with influenza virus by reducing viral load, inflammation, and apoptosis in the lung. Furthermore, galectin-1 knockout mice were more susceptible to influenza virus infection than wild-type mice. Collectively, our results indicate that galectin-1 has anti-influenza virus activity by binding to viral surface and inhibiting its infectivity. Thus, galectin-1 may be further explored as a novel therapeutic agent for influenza.
PMCID: PMC3196456  PMID: 21795357
25.  Pirfenidone inhibits TGF-β1-induced over-expression of collagen type I and heat shock protein 47 in A549 cells 
Pirfenidone is a novel anti-fibrotic and anti-inflammatory agent that inhibits the progression of fibrosis in animal models and in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). We previously showed that pirfenidone inhibits the over-expression of collagen type I and of heat shock protein (HSP) 47, a collagen-specific molecular chaperone, in human lung fibroblasts stimulated with transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1 in vitro. The increased numbers of HSP47-positive type II pneumocytes as well as fibroblasts were also diminished by pirfenidone in an animal model of pulmonary fibrosis induced by bleomycin. The present study evaluates the effects of pirfenidone on collagen type I and HSP47 expression in the human alveolar epithelial cell line, A549 cells in vitro.
The expression of collagen type I, HSP47 and E-cadherin mRNAs in A549 cells stimulated with TGF-β1 was evaluated by Northern blotting or real-time PCR. The expression of collagen type I, HSP47 and fibronectin proteins was assessed by immunocytochemical staining.
TGF-β1 stimulated collagen type I and HSP47 mRNA and protein expression in A549 cells, and pirfenidone significantly inhibited this process. Pirfenidone also inhibited over-expression of the fibroblast phenotypic marker fibronectin in A549 cells induced by TGF-β1.
We concluded that the anti-fibrotic effects of pirfenidone might be mediated not only through the direct inhibition of collagen type I expression but also through the inhibition of HSP47 expression in alveolar epithelial cells, which results in reduced collagen synthesis in lung fibrosis. Furthermore, pirfenidone might partially inhibit the epithelial-mesenchymal transition.
PMCID: PMC3403980  PMID: 22694981
Pneumocyte; Interstitial pneumonia; Epithelial cell; Epithelial mesenchymal transition; Pulmonary fibrosis

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