The Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway plays an important role in regulating cellular differentiation, proliferation, and polarity.
We used bleomycin to induce lung fibrosis in a transgenic Wnt reporter mouse to characterize the expression pattern of cyclin Dl, MMP-7, and TGF-β in conjunction with the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway. LacZ expression reveals the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway through the activated (nuclear) β-catenin and coactivation of LEF/TCF transcription factors. X-gal staining and immunohistochemical staining of β-catenin, cyclin Dl, MMP-7, and TGF-β were assessed after bleomycin administration.
We observed LacZ expression in bronchiolar proliferative lesions and the epithelium in remodeled cystic and fibrotic areas at both 1 and 3 weeks. Nuclear β-catenin staining was prominent in epithelial cells of remodeled and fibrotic areas at 3 weeks. MMP-7 was faint in basement membranes of airways and matrix zones in fibrotic areas at 3 weeks. Cyclin Dl was observed in alveolar macrophages (AM), alveolar epithelium, and fibrotic areas consistent with rapid cell turnover in these areas at both 1 and 3 weeks. TGF-β was faintly staining in alveolar macrophages and epithelial cells at 3 weeks.
The Wnt/β-catenin pathway is activated in bleomycin-induced lung fibrosis, and downstream genes were localized in AM, alveolar epithelium, and interstitium.
pulmonary fibrosis; beta-catenin; Wnt pathway
Pulmonary fibroblasts regulate extracellular matrix production and degradation; thus, they are critical for maintenance of lung structure, function, and repair. In pulmonary fibrosis, fibroblasts produce excess collagen and form fibrotic foci that eventually impair lung function, but the mechanisms responsible for these alterations are not known. Receptors coupled to the stimulation of cAMP production can inhibit activation of fibroblasts and thereby are antifibrotic. To test whether this signaling pathway is altered in pulmonary fibrosis, we compared the ability of normal adult human pulmonary fibroblasts to generate and respond to cAMP with that of cells isolated from lungs with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Serum- and transforming growth factor (TGF)-β-stimulated cell proliferation was inhibited ~50% by forskolin and ~100% by prostaglandin (PG) E2 in the normal cells but substantially less in the diseased cells. Collagen synthesis was also inhibited >50% by the same drugs in the normal cells but significantly less so in the diseased cells, despite responding with similar increases in cAMP production. Although expression of protein kinase A (PKA) and cAMP-stimulated PKA activity were similar in both the normal and diseased cell types, forskolin- and PGE2-stimulated cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB) phosphorylation was decreased in the diseased cell lines compared with the normal cells. cAMP-mediated activation and TGF-β-mediated inhibition of CREB DNA binding was also diminished in the diseased cells. Thus, pulmonary fibroblasts derived from patients with pulmonary fibrosis are refractory to the inhibition by cAMP due to altered activity of components distal to the activity of PKA, in particular the phosphorylation of CREB.
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is characterized by distorted lung architecture and loss of respiratory function. Enhanced (myo)fibroblast activation, ECM deposition, and alveolar epithelial type II (ATII) cell dysfunction contribute to IPF pathogenesis. However, the molecular pathways linking ATII cell dysfunction with the development of fibrosis are poorly understood. Here, we demonstrate, in a mouse model of pulmonary fibrosis, increased proliferation and altered expression of components of the WNT/β-catenin signaling pathway in ATII cells. Further analysis revealed that expression of WNT1-inducible signaling protein–1 (WISP1), which is encoded by a WNT target gene, was increased in ATII cells in both a mouse model of pulmonary fibrosis and patients with IPF. Treatment of mouse primary ATII cells with recombinant WISP1 led to increased proliferation and epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), while treatment of mouse and human lung fibroblasts with recombinant WISP1 enhanced deposition of ECM components. In the mouse model of pulmonary fibrosis, neutralizing mAbs specific for WISP1 reduced the expression of genes characteristic of fibrosis and reversed the expression of genes associated with EMT. More importantly, these changes in gene expression were associated with marked attenuation of lung fibrosis, including decreased collagen deposition and improved lung function and survival. Our study thus identifies WISP1 as a key regulator of ATII cell hyperplasia and plasticity as well as a potential therapeutic target for attenuation of pulmonary fibrosis.
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a fatal lung disease, characterized by distorted lung architecture and loss of respiratory function. Alveolar epithelial cell injury and hyperplasia, enhanced extracellular matrix deposition, and (myo)fibroblast activation are features of IPF. Wnt/β-catenin signaling has been shown to determine epithelial cell fate during development. As aberrant reactivation of developmental signaling pathways has been suggested to contribute to IPF pathogenesis, we hypothesized that Wnt/β-catenin signaling is activated in epithelial cells in IPF. Thus, we quantified and localized the expression and activity of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway in IPF.
The expression of Wnt1, 3a, 7b, and 10b, the Wnt receptors Fzd1-4, Lrp5-6, as well as the intracellular signal transducers Gsk-3β, β-catenin, Tcf1, 3, 4, and Lef1 was analyzed in IPF and transplant donor lungs by quantitative real-time (q)RT-PCR. Wnt1, 7b and 10b, Fzd2 and 3, β-catenin, and Lef1 expression was significantly increased in IPF. Immunohistochemical analysis localized Wnt1, Wnt3a, β-catenin, and Gsk-3β expression largely to alveolar and bronchial epithelium. This was confirmed by qRT-PCR of primary alveolar epithelial type II (ATII) cells, demonstrating a significant increase of Wnt signaling in ATII cells derived from IPF patients. In addition, Western blot analysis of phospho-Gsk-3β, phospho-Lrp6, and β-catenin, and qRT-PCR of the Wnt target genes cyclin D1, Mmp 7, or Fibronectin 1 demonstrated increased functional Wnt/β-catenin signaling in IPF compared with controls. Functional in vitro studies further revealed that Wnt ligands induced lung epithelial cell proliferation and (myo)fibroblast activation and collagen synthesis.
Our study demonstrates that the Wnt/β-catenin pathway is expressed and operative in adult lung epithelium. Increased Wnt/β-catenin signaling may be involved in epithelial cell injury and hyperplasia, as well as impaired epithelial-mesenchymal cross-talk in IPF. Thus, modification of Wnt signaling may represent a therapeutic option in IPF.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is characterized by abnormal extracellular matrix (ECM) turnover. Recently, activation of the WNT/β-catenin pathway has been associated with abnormal ECM turnover in various chronic diseases. We determined WNT-pathway gene expression in pulmonary fibroblasts of individuals with and without COPD and disentangled the role of β-catenin in fibroblast phenotype and function.
We assessed the expression of WNT-pathway genes and the functional role of β-catenin, using MRC-5 human lung fibroblasts and primary pulmonary fibroblasts of individuals with and without COPD.
Pulmonary fibroblasts expressed mRNA of genes required for WNT signaling. Stimulation of fibroblasts with TGF-β1, a growth factor important in COPD pathogenesis, induced WNT-5B, FZD8, DVL3 and β-catenin mRNA expression. The induction of WNT-5B, FZD6, FZD8 and DVL3 mRNA by TGF-β1 was higher in fibroblasts of individuals with COPD than without COPD, whilst basal expression was similar. Accordingly, TGF-β1 activated β-catenin signaling, as shown by an increase in transcriptionally active and total β-catenin protein expression. Furthermore, TGF-β1 induced the expression of collagen1α1, α-sm-actin and fibronectin, which was attenuated by β-catenin specific siRNA and by pharmacological inhibition of β-catenin, whereas the TGF-β1-induced expression of PAI-1 was not affected. The induction of transcriptionally active β-catenin and subsequent fibronectin deposition induced by TGF-β1 were enhanced in pulmonary fibroblasts from individuals with COPD.
β-catenin signaling contributes to ECM production by pulmonary fibroblasts and contributes to myofibroblasts differentiation. WNT/β-catenin pathway expression and activation by TGF-β1 is enhanced in pulmonary fibroblasts from individuals with COPD. This suggests an important role of the WNT/β-catenin pathway in regulating fibroblast phenotype and function in COPD.
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.
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.
Caveolin-1; TGF-β; fibrosis; collagen; systemic sclerosis; idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
During the development and progression of endometriotic lesions, excess fibrosis may lead to scarring, chronic pain, and altered tissue function. However, the cellular and molecular mechanisms of fibrosis in endometriosis remain to be clarified.
The objective of the present study was to investigate whether the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway was involved in regulating the cellular and molecular mechanisms of fibrosis in endometriosis in vitro and to evaluate whether fibrosis could be prevented by targeting the Wnt/β-catenin pathway in a xenograft model of endometriosis in immunodeficient nude mice.
Seventy patients (40 with and 30 without endometriosis) with normal menstrual cycles were recruited. In vitro effects of small-molecule antagonists of the Tcf/β-catenin complex (PKF 115-584 and CGP049090) on fibrotic markers (alpha smooth muscle actin, type I collagen, connective tissue growth factor, fibronectin) and collagen gel contraction were evaluated in endometrial and endometriotic stromal cells from patients with endometriosis. In vitro effects of activation of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway by treatment with recombinant Wnt3a on profibrotic responses were evaluated in endometrial stromal cells of patients without endometriosis. The effects of CGP049090 treatment on the fibrosis of endometriotic implants were evaluated in a xenograft model of endometriosis in immunodeficient nude mice.
Treatment with PKF 115-584 and CGP049090 significantly decreased the expression of alpha smooth muscle actin, type I collagen, connective tissue growth factor and fibronectin mRNAs in both endometriotic and endometrial stromal cells with or without transforming growth factor-β1 stimulation. Both endometriotic and endometrial stromal cell-mediated contraction of collagen gels was significantly decreased by treatment with PKF 115-584 and CGP049090 as compared to that of untreated cells. The animal experiments showed that CGP049090 prevented the progression of fibrosis and reversed established fibrosis in endometriosis.
Aberrant activation of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway may be involved in mediating fibrogenesis in endometriosis.
Recent studies suggest the importance of the transition of airway epithelial cells (EMT) in pulmonary fibrosis, and also indicate a role for Wingless protein (Wnt)/β-catenin signaling in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. We investigated the possible role of the Wnt signaling pathway in inducing EMT in lung epithelial cells, and sought to unravel the role of c-Jun–N-terminal-kinase–1 (JNK1). The exposure of C10 lung epithelial cells or primary mouse tracheal epithelial cells (MTECs) to Wnt3a resulted in increases in JNK phosphorylation and nuclear β-catenin content. Because the role of β-catenin as a transcriptional coactivator is well established, we investigated T-cell factor/lymphocyte-enhancement factor (TCF/LEF) transcriptional activity in C10 lung epithelial cells after the activation of Wnt. TCF/LEF transcriptional activity was enhanced after the activation of Wnt, and this increase in TCF/LEF transcriptional activity was diminished after the small interfering (si)RNA-mediated ablation of JNK. The activation of the Wnt pathway by Wnt3a, or the expression of either wild-type or constitutively active β-catenin (S37A), led to the activation of an EMT transcriptome, manifested by the increased mRNA expression of CArG box-binding factor–A, fibroblast-specific protein (FSP)–1, α–smooth muscle actin (α-SMA), and vimentin, increases in the content of α-SMA and FSP1, and the concomitant loss of zona occludens–1. The siRNA-mediated ablation of β-catenin substantially decreased Wnt3a-induced EMT. The siRNA ablation of JNK1 largely abolished Wnt3a, β-catenin, and β-catenin S37a-induced EMT. In MTECs lacking Jnk1, Wnt3a-induced increases in nuclear β-catenin, EMT transcriptome, and the content of α-SMA or FSP1 were substantially diminished. These data show that the activation of the Wnt signaling pathway is capable of inducing an EMT program in lung epithelial cells through β-catenin, and that this process is controlled by JNK1.
lung; epithelium; Wnt3a; fibrosis; epithelial to mesenchymal transition
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.
nuclear factor-κB; α-smooth muscle actin; idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
Thy-1 is a glycosylphosphatidyl-inositol–linked cell surface glycoprotein whose exact biological role remains unclear. Differential expression of Thy-1 affects fibroblast proliferation and fibrogenic signaling. In idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, the proliferating myofibroblasts within the fibroblastic foci are Thy-1(−), whereas normal lung fibroblasts are predominantly Thy-1(+). In this study, we used rat lung fibroblasts sorted for Thy-1 expression to examine myofibroblastic differentiation in response to fibrogenic stimuli. We examined the effects of transforming growth factor–β, endothelin-1, and connective tissue growth factor on the expression of myofibroblast proteins and myogenic regulatory factors by real-time RT-PCR and immunoblotting. Thy-1(−) cells have significantly higher myofibroblast and myogenic regulatory factor gene and protein expression compared with Thy-1(+) cells, confirmed by immunofluorescence. We also used floating collagen matrix contraction assays to assess the functional differentiation of the fibroblasts. At baseline and after stimulation with transforming growth factor–β and endothelin-1, Thy-1(−) cells caused significantly greater collagen contraction than did Thy-1(+) cells, supporting the hypothesis that Thy-1(−) cells are more fully differentiated myofibroblasts. Because apoptosis has been implicated in the regression of myofibroblasts, we examined the percentage of apoptotic cells in the contracted collagen matrices at baseline and after stimulation with fibrogenic agents. A significantly greater proportion of Thy-1(+) cells underwent apoptosis in all conditions compared with Thy-1(−) fibroblasts. Transfection of Thy-1 into Thy-1(−) cells inhibits collagen matrix contraction and reduces cell survival. Our data indicate that Thy-1 regulates myogenic gene expression, myofibroblastic differentiation, and survival in lung fibroblasts.
lung; fibroblasts; myofibroblasts; contractility; apoptosis
Myofibroblast apoptosis is critical for the normal resolution of wound repair responses, and impaired myofibroblast apoptosis is associated with tissue fibrosis. Lung expression of endothelin (ET)-1, a soluble peptide implicated in fibrogenesis, is increased in murine models of pulmonary fibrosis and in the lungs of humans with pulmonary fibrosis. Mechanistically, ET-1 has been shown to induce fibroblast proliferation, differentiation, contraction, and collagen synthesis. In this study, we examined the role ET-1 in the regulation of lung fibroblast survival and apoptosis. ET-1 rapidly activates the prosurvival phosphatidylinositol 3′-OH kinase (PI3K)/AKT signaling pathway in normal and fibrotic human lung fibroblasts. ET-1–induced activation of PI3K/AKT is dependent on p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), but not extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) 1/2, JNK, or transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1. Activation of the PI3K/AKT pathway by ET-1 inhibits fibroblast apoptosis, and this inhibition is reversed by blockade of p38 MAPK or PI3K. TGF-β1 has been shown to attenuate myofibroblast apoptosis through the p38 MAPK–dependent secretion of a soluble factor, which activates PI3K/AKT. In this study, we show that, although TGF-β1 induces fibroblast synthesis and secretion of ET-1, TGF-β1 activation of PI3K/AKT is not dependent on ET-1. We conclude that ET-1 and TGF-β1 independently promote fibroblast resistance to apoptosis through signaling pathways involving p38 MAPK and PI3K/AKT. These findings suggest the potential for novel therapies targeting the convergence of prosurvival signaling pathways activated by these two profibrotic mediators.
myofibroblast; fibrosis; Fas; p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase; mesenchymal cells
Myofibroblasts are the principal mesenchymal cells responsible for tissue remodeling, collagen deposition, and the restrictive nature of lung parenchyma associated with pulmonary fibrosis. We previously reported that thrombin activates protease-activated receptor (PAR)-1 thereby inducing normal lung fibroblasts to differentiate to a myofibroblast phenotype resembling scleroderma lung myofibroblasts. Here we demonstrate that the thrombin inhibitor dabigatran inhibits in a dose-dependant manner thrombin's induction of myofibroblasts. Dabigatran inhibits thrombin-induced cell proliferation, α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) expression and organization, and the production of collagen and connective tissue growth factor (CTGF). Moreover, when treated with dabigatran scleroderma lung myofibroblasts produce less CTGF, α-SMA, and collagen type I. We conclude that dabigatran restrains important profibrotic events in lung fibroblasts and that this oral direct thrombin inhibitor warrants study as a potential anti-fibrotic drug for the treatment of fibrosing lung diseases, e.g. scleroderma lung disease and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
TGF-β, a mediator of pulmonary fibrosis, is a genetic modifier of CF respiratory deterioration. The mechanistic relationship between TGF-β signaling and CF lung disease has not been determined.
To investigate myofibroblast differentiation in CF lung tissue as a novel pathway by which TGF-β signaling may contribute to pulmonary decline, airway remodeling and tissue fibrosis.
Lung samples from CF and non-CF subjects were analyzed morphometrically for total TGF-β1, TGF-β signaling (Smad2 phosphorylation), myofibroblast differentiation (α-smooth muscle actin), and collagen deposition (Masson trichrome stain).
TGF-β signaling and fibrosis are markedly increased in CF (p<0.01), and the presence of myofibroblasts is four-fold higher in CF vs. normal lung tissue (p<0.005). In lung tissue with prominent TGF-β signaling, both myofibroblast differentiation and tissue fibrosis are significantly augmented (p<0.005).
These studies establish for the first time that a pathogenic mechanism described previously in pulmonary fibrosis is also prominent in cystic fibrosis lung disease. The presence of TGF-β dependent signaling in areas of prominent myofibroblast proliferation and fibrosis in CF suggests that strategies under development for other pro-fibrotic lung conditions may also be evaluated for use in CF.
The canonical Wnt/β-catenin pathway plays crucial roles in various aspects of lung morphogenesis and regeneration/repair. Here, we examined the lung phenotype and function in mice lacking the Wnt/β-catenin antagonist Chibby (Cby). In support of its inhibitory role in canonical Wnt signaling, expression of β-catenin target genes is elevated in the Cby−/− lung. Notably, Cby protein is prominently associated with the centrosome/basal body microtubule structures in embryonic lung epithelial progenitor cells, and later enriches as discrete foci at the base of motile cilia in airway ciliated cells. At birth, Cby−/− lungs are grossly normal but spontaneously develop alveolar airspace enlargement with reduced proliferation and abnormal differentiation of lung epithelial cells, resulting in altered pulmonary function. Consistent with the Cby expression pattern, airway ciliated cells exhibit a marked paucity of motile cilia with apparent failure of basal body docking. Moreover, we demonstrate that Cby is a direct downstream target for the master ciliogenesis transcription factor Foxj1. Collectively, our results demonstrate that Cby facilitates proper postnatal lung development and function.
Fibrosis in human diseases and animal models is associated with aberrant Wnt/β-catenin pathway activation. The regulation, activity, mechanism of action and significance of Wnt/β-catenin signaling in the context of systemic sclerosis (SSc) has not been characterized.
Expression of Wnt signaling pathway components in SSc skin biopsies was analyzed. The regulation of profibrotic responses by canonical Wnt/ß-catenin was examined in explanted human mesenchymal cells. Fibrotic responses were studied by proliferation, migration and gel contraction assays. The fate specification of subcutaneous preadipocytes by canonical Wnt signaling was evaluated.
Analysis of published genome-wide expression datasets revealed elevated expression of the Wnt receptor Fzd2 and the Wnt target Lef1, and decreased expression of Wnt antagonists Dkk2 and Wif1 in skin biopsies from subsets of dcSSc patients. Immunohistochemistry showed increased nuclear β-catenin expression in these biopsies. In vitro, Wnt3a induced ß-catenin activation, stimulated fibroblast proliferation, migration, gel contraction and myofibroblast differentiation, and profibrotic gene expression. Genetic and pharmacological approaches were used to demonstrate that these profibrotic responses involved autocrine TGF-β signaling via Smads. In contrast, in explanted subcutaneous preadipocytes Wnt3a repressed adipogenesis and promoted myofibroblast differentiation.
Canonical Wnt signaling was hyperactivated in SSc skin biopsies, and in explanted mesenchymal cells Wnt3a stimulated fibrogenic responses while suppressing adipogenesis. Together, these results indicate that Wnts have potent profibrotic effects and canonical Wnt signaling plays an important role in the pathogenesis of fibrosis and lipoatrophy in SSc.
The nuclear receptor TLX (also known as NR2E1) is essential for adult neural stem cell self-renewal; however, the molecular mechanisms involved remain elusive. Here we show that TLX activates the canonical Wnt/β-catenin pathway in adult mouse neural stem cells. Furthermore, we demonstrate that Wnt/β-catenin signalling is important in the proliferation and self-renewal of adult neural stem cells in the presence of epidermal growth factor and fibroblast growth factor. Wnt7a and active β-catenin promote neural stem cell self-renewal, whereas the deletion of Wnt7a or the lentiviral transduction of axin, a β-catenin inhibitor, led to decreased cell proliferation in adult neurogenic areas. Lentiviral transduction of active β-catenin led to increased numbers of type B neural stem cells in the subventricular zone of adult brains, whereas deletion of Wnt7a or TLX resulted in decreased numbers of neural stem cells retaining bromodeoxyuridine label in the adult brain. Both Wnt7a and active β-catenin significantly rescued a TLX (also known as Nr2e1) short interfering RNA-induced deficiency in neural stem cell proliferation. Lentiviral transduction of an active β-catenin increased cell proliferation in neurogenic areas of TLX-null adult brains markedly. These results strongly support the hypothesis that TLX acts through the Wnt/β-catenin pathway to regulate neural stem cell proliferation and self-renewal. Moreover, this study suggests that neural stem cells can promote their own self-renewal by secreting signalling molecules that act in an autocrine/paracrine mode.
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a relentlessly progressive lung disease in which fibroblasts accumulate in the alveolar wall within a type I collagen–rich matrix. Although lung fibroblasts derived from patients with IPF display durable pathological alterations in proliferative function, the molecular mechanisms differentiating IPF fibroblasts from their normal counterparts remain unknown. Polymerized type I collagen normally inhibits fibroblast proliferation, providing a physiological mechanism to limit fibroproliferation after tissue injury. We demonstrate that β1 integrin interaction with polymerized collagen inhibits normal fibroblast proliferation by suppression of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)–Akt–S6K1 signal pathway due to maintenance of high phosphatase activity of the tumor suppressor phosphatase and tensin homologue (PTEN). In contrast, IPF fibroblasts eluded this restraint, displaying a pathological pattern of β1 integrin signaling in response to polymerized collagen that leads to aberrant activation of the PI3K–Akt–S6K1 signal pathway caused by inappropriately low PTEN activity. Mice deficient in PTEN showed a prolonged fibroproliferative response after tissue injury, and immunohistochemical analysis of IPF lung tissue demonstrates activation of Akt in cells within fibrotic foci. These results provide direct evidence for defective negative regulation of the proliferative pathway in IPF fibroblasts and support the theory that the pathogenesis of IPF involves an intrinsic fibroblast defect.
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.
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.
fibrosis; myofibroblast; phosphatase; PTEN; smooth muscle actin
Menin, which is encoded by the multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) gene, is a tumor suppressor and transcriptional regulator. Menin controls proliferation and apoptosis of cells, especially pancreatic β cells. We have found that menin contains two functional nuclear export signals and that there is nuclear accumulation of β-catenin in Men1-null mouse embryonic fibroblasts and insulinoma tissues from β-cell-specific Men1 knockout mice. It is reported that the deregulation of Wnt/β-catenin signaling caused by inactivation of tumor suppressors results in abnormal development or tumorigenesis. We further revealed that overexpression of menin reduces β-catenin nuclear accumulation and its transcriptional activity. Menin is able to directly interact with β-catenin and carry β-catenin out of the nucleus via nuclear-cytoplasmic shuttling in a CRM1-dependent manner. These results imply that menin may control cell proliferation through suppression of Wnt/β-catenin signaling.
Purpose of review
The Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway plays a critical role in development and adult tissue homeostasis. Recent investigations implicate Wnt/β-catenin signaling in abnormal wound repair and fibrogenesis. The purpose of this review is to highlight recent key studies that support a role for Wnt/β-catenin signaling in fibrosis.
Studies of patients with fibrotic diseases have demonstrated changes in components of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway. In animal models, perturbations in Wnt/β-catenin signaling appear to aggravate or ameliorate markers of injury and fibrosis in a variety of different tissues. Studies also suggest that fibroblasts from different tissue sources may have markedly divergent responses to Wnt/β-catenin signaling. Cross-talk between Wnt/β-catenin and transforming growth factor-β pathways is complex and context-dependent, and may promote fibrogenesis through coregulation of fibrogenic gene targets. High throughput screening has identified several novel chemical inhibitors of Wnt/β-catenin signaling that may be of therapeutic potential.
Wnt/β-catenin signaling appears important in normal wound healing and its sustained activation is associated with fibrogenesis. The mechanism by which Wnt/β-catenin signaling may modify the response to injury is cell-type and context-dependent. Better understanding of this signaling pathway may provide a promising new therapeutic approach for human fibrotic diseases.
β-catenin; fibrosis; Wnt; wound repair
Diffuse parenchymal lung diseases (DPLD) represent a diverse group of disorders affecting the distal lung parenchyma, specifically the tissue and spaces surrounding the alveoli, which may be filled with inflammatory cells, proliferating fibroblasts or established fibrosis, often leading to architectural distortion and impaired gas exchange. While the underlying pathogenetic mechanisms are known or inferred for some DPLD (such as sarcoidosis, silicosis, drug reactions and collagen vascular diseases), the pathogenesis of the majority of these entities - particularly those characterized by progressive fibrosis - is poorly understood.
Several lines of evidence indicate that the development of pulmonary fibrosis is genetically determined. They include: 1. familial clustering; 2. the occurrence of pulmonary fibrosis in the context of rare inherited disorders; 3. substantial variability in the development of pulmonary fibrosis amongst individuals exposed to organic or inorganic dusts; 4. difference in susceptibility to fibrogenic stimuli amongst inbred strains of mice.
This review focuses on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and sarcoidosis, the two most common DPLD and the two entities for which there is stronger evidence of a genetic predisposition, although how aberrant genes interact with each other and with environmental factors, such as smoking in IPF and infectious agents in sarcoidosis, in determining disease susceptibility and clinical phenotypes is largely unknown. Finally, we discuss practical issues and implications for both patients and physicians of recent advances in the genetics of sarcoidosis and IPF.
Genetics; Sarcoidosis; Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis; Diffuse parenchymal lung disease
The signal transduction mechanisms generating pathological fibrosis are almost wholly unknown. Endothelin-1 (ET-1), which is up-regulated during tissue repair and fibrosis, induces lung fibroblasts to produce and contract extracellular matrix. Lung fibroblasts isolated from scleroderma patients with chronic pulmonary fibrosis produce elevated levels of ET-1, which contribute to the persistent fibrotic phenotype of these cells. Transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) induces fibroblasts to produce and contract matrix. In this report, we show that TGF-β induces ET-1 in normal and fibrotic lung fibroblasts in a Smad-independent ALK5/c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK)/Ap-1-dependent fashion. ET-1 induces JNK through TAK1. Fibrotic lung fibroblasts display constitutive JNK activation, which was reduced by the dual ETA/ETB receptor inhibitor, bosentan, providing evidence of an autocrine endothelin loop. Thus, ET-1 and TGF-β are likely to cooperate in the pathogenesis of pulmonary fibrosis. As elevated JNK activation in fibrotic lung fibroblasts contributes to the persistence of the myofibroblast phenotype in pulmonary fibrosis by promoting an autocrine ET-1 loop, targeting the ETA and ETB receptors or constitutive JNK activation by fibrotic lung fibroblasts is likely to be of benefit in combating chronic pulmonary fibrosis.
BACKGROUND--The migration and proliferation of fibroblasts may be important in the pathogenesis of pulmonary fibrosis. Considerable data are available on the proliferation of fibroblasts, but very few on their migration. METHODS--The migratory activity of fibroblasts obtained from lung biopsy specimens from 11 patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) was studied using a 96-well chemotaxis chamber. Fibroblasts from eight normal controls, seven patients with interstitial fibrosis associated with a collagen vascular disease (IP-CVD), and 13 patients with sarcoidosis were also examined. Migratory activity was tested in a serum-free medium in the presence and absence of platelet derived growth factor (PDGF), 30 ng/ml, as a chemoattractant. RESULTS--Migration of fibroblasts from patients with IPF was enhanced in serum-free maintenance medium alone (mean (SD) controls v IPF: 183 (86) v 689 (491) cells/field), and was also enhanced when cells were stimulated by PDGF (controls v IPF: 829 (222) v 1928 (600) cells/field). Fibroblasts from tissues with dense fibrosis had a greater capacity for migration than those from an earlier stage of fibrosis. No correlation was found between migratory activity and proliferative capacity of the individual cells. CONCLUSIONS--The fact that fibroblasts from fibrotic lungs migrate faster than those from controls suggests that migration is related to the initiation of the pulmonary fibrotic process. These in vitro studies suggest that fibroblasts derived from the lungs of patients with pulmonary fibrosis have a migratory phenotype. Such a change in fibroblast phenotype, if it occurred in vivo, may be important in the context of the pathogenesis of pulmonary fibrosis.
The soluble ectodomain of fibroblast growth factor receptor-IIIc (sFGFR2c) is able to bind to fibroblast growth factor (FGF) ligands and block the activation of the FGF-signaling pathway. In this study, sFGFR2c inhibited lung fibrosis dramatically in vitro and in vivo. The upregulation of α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) in fibroblasts by transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1) is an important step in the process of lung fibrosis, in which FGF-2, released by TGF-β1, is involved. sFGFR2c inhibited α-SMA induction by TGF-β1 via both the extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) and Smad3 pathways in primary mouse lung fibroblasts and the proliferation of mouse lung fibroblasts. In a mouse model of bleomycin (BLM)-induced lung fibrosis, mice were treated with sFGFR2c from d 3 or d 10 to 31 after BLM administration. Then we used hematoxylin and eosin staining, Masson staining and immunohistochemical staining to evaluate the inhibitory effects of sFGFR2c on lung fibrosis. The treatment with sFGFR2c resulted in significant attenuation of the lung fibrosis score and collagen deposition. The expression levels of α-SMA, p-FGFRs, p-ERK1/2 and p-Smad3 in the lungs of sFGFR2c-treated mice were markedly lower. sFGFR2c may have potential for the treatment of lung fibrosis as an FGF-2 antagonist.