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1.  Prematurity and respiratory outcomes program (PROP): study protocol of a prospective multicenter study of respiratory outcomes of preterm infants in the United States 
BMC Pediatrics  2015;15:37.
With improved survival rates, short- and long-term respiratory complications of premature birth are increasing, adding significantly to financial and health burdens in the United States. In response, in May 2010, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) funded a 5-year $18.5 million research initiative to ultimately improve strategies for managing the respiratory complications of preterm and low birth weight infants. Using a collaborative, multi-disciplinary structure, the resulting Prematurity and Respiratory Outcomes Program (PROP) seeks to understand factors that correlate with future risk for respiratory morbidity.
The PROP is an observational prospective cohort study performed by a consortium of six clinical centers (incorporating tertiary neonatal intensive care units [NICU] at 13 sites) and a data-coordinating center working in collaboration with the NHLBI. Each clinical center contributes subjects to the study, enrolling infants with gestational ages 23 0/7 to 28 6/7 weeks with an anticipated target of 750 survivors at 36 weeks post-menstrual age. In addition, each center brings specific areas of scientific focus to the Program. The primary study hypothesis is that in survivors of extreme prematurity specific biologic, physiologic and clinical data predicts respiratory morbidity between discharge and 1 year corrected age. Analytic statistical methodology includes model-based and non-model-based analyses, descriptive analyses and generalized linear mixed models.
PROP incorporates aspects of NICU care to develop objective biomarkers and outcome measures of respiratory morbidity in the <29 week gestation population beyond just the NICU hospitalization, thereby leading to novel understanding of the nature and natural history of neonatal lung disease and of potential mechanistic and therapeutic targets in at-risk subjects.
Trial registration
Clinical NCT01435187.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12887-015-0346-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4407843  PMID: 25886363
Prematurity; Infant; Preterm; Chronic lung disease; Bronchopulmonary dysplasia
2.  Systems biology approaches to identify developmental bases for lung diseases 
Pediatric research  2013;73(0):514-522.
A greater understanding of the regulatory processes contributing to lung development could be helpful to identify strategies to ameliorate morbidity and mortality in premature infants and to identify individuals at risk for congenital and/or chronic lung diseases. Over the past decade, genomics technologies have enabled the production of rich gene expression databases providing information for all genes across developmental time or in diseased tissue. These data sets facilitate systems biology approaches for identifying underlying biological modules and programs contributing to the complex processes of normal development, and those that may be associated with disease states. The next decade will undoubtedly see rapid and significant advances in redefining both lung development and disease at the systems level.
PMCID: PMC3615902  PMID: 23314295
3.  Genome-Wide Transcriptional Profiling Reveals Connective Tissue Mast Cell Accumulation in Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia 
Rationale: Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) is a major complication of premature birth. Risk factors for BPD are complex and include prenatal infection and O2 toxicity. BPD pathology is equally complex and characterized by inflammation and dysmorphic airspaces and vasculature. Due to the limited availability of clinical samples, an understanding of the molecular pathogenesis of this disease and its causal mechanisms and associated biomarkers is limited.
Objectives: Apply genome-wide expression profiling to define pathways affected in BPD lungs.
Methods: Lung tissue was obtained at autopsy from 11 BPD cases and 17 age-matched control subjects without BPD. RNA isolated from these tissue samples was interrogated using microarrays. Standard gene selection and pathway analysis methods were applied to the data set. Abnormal expression patterns were validated by quantitative reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction and immunohistochemistry.
Measurements and Main Results: We identified 159 genes differentially expressed in BPD tissues. Pathway analysis indicated previously appreciated (e.g., DNA damage regulation of cell cycle) as well as novel (e.g., B-cell development) biological functions were affected. Three of the five most highly induced genes were mast cell (MC)-specific markers. We confirmed an increased accumulation of connective tissue MCTC (chymase expressing) mast cells in BPD tissues. Increased expression of MCTC markers was also demonstrated in an animal model of BPD-like pathology.
Conclusions: We present a unique genome-wide expression data set from human BPD lung tissue. Our data provide information on gene expression patterns associated with BPD and facilitated the discovery that MCTC accumulation is a prominent feature of this disease. These observations have significant clinical and mechanistic implications.
PMCID: PMC3443810  PMID: 22723293
microarray; tryptase; chymase; carboxypeptidase A3; bronchopulmonary dysplasia
4.  Stability of T Cell Phenotype and Functional Assays Following Heparinized Umbilical Cord Blood Collection 
Umbilical cord blood has been used for a wide variety of immunologic investigations including assessments of developmental perturbations by antenatal exposures. Recent advances in multiparameter flow cytometry have allowed finer characterization of lymphocyte phenotype and function, revealing important differences between the fetal and adult immune systems. The degree of variability between human subjects confounds the ability to draw firm conclusions. Artifacts resulting from processing techniques exacerbate this variability. The unpredictable nature of deliveries, especially of premature infants, makes it difficult to control variables such as timing of umbilical cord mononuclear cell (UCMC) isolation and method of collection. Additionally, in multicenter studies dependent on central processing, delays are inevitable. However, little available literature describes systematic testing of the degree to which processing variations affect UCMC phenotype and function. Using multiparameter flow cytometry, we tested the effect of collection technique and length of time prior to UCMC isolation on T cell phenotype and function, with the goal of creating a standardized operating procedure for a multicenter investigation. The study also provides a benchmark data set including extensive surface and functional phenotyping of umbilical cord T cells. UCMC isolation delay of up to 24 h produced similar T cell phenotype and function as tested by in vitro SEB stimulation. There were few statistically significant differences between time points based on data medians. We conclude that, for the purpose of immunologic investigations, a 24-h time delay from sample collection to mononuclear cell isolation does not introduce a significant degree of variation in T cell phenotype and function when adhering to strict standard operating procedures.
PMCID: PMC4029066  PMID: 23027690
umbilical cord blood; T-lymphocytes; phenotype; neonate; immunologic techniques; cell isolation; flow cytometry
5.  Molecular Determinants of Lung Development 
Development of the pulmonary system is essential for terrestrial life. The molecular pathways that regulate this complex process are beginning to be defined, and such knowledge is critical to our understanding of congenital and acquired lung diseases. A recent workshop was convened by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to discuss the developmental principles that regulate the formation of the pulmonary system. Emerging evidence suggests that key developmental pathways not only regulate proper formation of the pulmonary system but are also reactivated upon postnatal injury and repair and in the pathogenesis of human lung diseases. Molecular understanding of early lung development has also led to new advances in areas such as generation of lung epithelium from pluripotent stem cells. The workshop was organized into four different topics, including early lung cell fate and morphogenesis, mechanisms of lung cell differentiation, tissue interactions in lung development, and environmental impact on early lung development. Critical points were raised, including the importance of epigenetic regulation of lung gene expression, the dearth of knowledge on important mesenchymal lineages within the lung, and the interaction between the developing pulmonary and cardiovascular system. This manuscript describes the summary of the discussion along with general recommendations to overcome the gaps in knowledge in lung developmental biology.
PMCID: PMC3955361  PMID: 23607856
lung development; lung cell fate; lung cell differentiation; tissue interaction; environmental impact
6.  Molecular Determinants of Lung Development 
Development of the pulmonary system is essential for terrestrial life. The molecular pathways that regulate this complex process are beginning to be defined, and such knowledge is critical to our understanding of congenital and acquired lung diseases. A recent workshop was convened by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to discuss the developmental principles that regulate the formation of the pulmonary system. Emerging evidence suggests that key developmental pathways not only regulate proper formation of the pulmonary system but are also reactivated upon postnatal injury and repair and in the pathogenesis of human lung diseases. Molecular understanding of early lung development has also led to new advances in areas such as generation of lung epithelium from pluripotent stem cells. The workshop was organized into four different topics, including early lung cell fate and morphogenesis, mechanisms of lung cell differentiation, tissue interactions in lung development, and environmental impact on early lung development. Critical points were raised, including the importance of epigenetic regulation of lung gene expression, the dearth of knowledge on important mesenchymal lineages within the lung, and the interaction between the developing pulmonary and cardiovascular system. This manuscript describes the summary of the discussion along with general recommendations to overcome the gaps in knowledge in lung developmental biology.
PMCID: PMC3955361  PMID: 23607856
lung development; lung cell fate; lung cell differentiation; tissue interaction; environmental impact
7.  Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptors Control Epithelial–Mesenchymal Interactions Necessary for Alveolar Elastogenesis 
Rationale: The mechanisms contributing to alveolar formation are poorly understood. A better understanding of these processes will improve efforts to ameliorate lung disease of the newborn and promote alveolar repair in the adult. Previous studies have identified impaired alveogenesis in mice bearing compound mutations of fibroblast growth factor (FGF) receptors (FGFRs) 3 and 4, indicating that these receptors cooperatively promote postnatal alveolar formation.
Objectives: To determine the molecular and cellular mechanisms of FGF-mediated alveolar formation.
Methods: Compound FGFR3/FGFR4-deficient mice were assessed for temporal changes in lung growth, airspace morphometry, and genome-wide expression. Observed gene expression changes were validated using quantitative real-time RT-PCR, tissue biochemistry, histochemistry, and ELISA. Autocrine and paracrine regulatory mechanisms were investigated using isolated lung mesenchymal cells and type II pneumocytes.
Measurements and Main Results: Quantitative analysis of airspace ontogeny confirmed a failure of secondary crest elongation in compound mutant mice. Genome-wide expression profiling identified molecular alterations in these mice involving aberrant expression of numerous extracellular matrix molecules. Biochemical and histochemical analysis confirmed changes in elastic fiber gene expression resulted in temporal increases in elastin deposition with the loss of typical spatial restriction. No abnormalities in elastic fiber gene expression were observed in isolated mesenchymal cells, indicating that abnormal elastogenesis in compound mutant mice is not cell autonomous. Increased expression of paracrine factors, including insulin-like growth factor−1, in freshly-isolated type II pneumocytes indicated that these cells contribute to the observed pathology.
Conclusions: Epithelial/mesenchymal signaling mechanisms appear to contribute to FGFR-dependent alveolar elastogenesis and proper airspace formation.
PMCID: PMC2854333  PMID: 20093646
lung development; fibroblast growth factor receptor; alveogenesis; insulin-like growth factor−1; microarray
8.  Transcriptomic Analysis of Human Lung Development 
Rationale: Current understanding of the molecular regulation of lung development is limited and derives mostly from animal studies.
Objectives: To define global patterns of gene expression during human lung development.
Methods: Genome-wide expression profiling was used to measure the developing lung transcriptome in RNA samples derived from 38 normal human lung tissues at 53 to 154 days post conception. Principal component analysis was used to characterize global expression variation and to identify genes and bioontologic attributes contributing to these variations. Individual gene expression patterns were verified by quantitative reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction analysis.
Measurements and Main Results: Gene expression analysis identified attributes not previously associated with lung development, such as chemokine-immunologic processes. Lung characteristics attributes (e.g., surfactant function) were observed at an earlier-than-anticipated age. We defined a 3,223 gene developing lung characteristic subtranscriptome capable of describing a majority of the process. In gene expression space, the samples formed a time-contiguous trajectory with transition points correlating with histological stages and suggesting the existence of novel molecular substages. Induction of surfactant gene expression characterized a pseudoglandular “molecular phase” transition. Individual gene expression patterns were independently validated. We predicted the age of independent human lung transcriptome profiles with a median absolute error of 5 days, supporting the validity of the data and modeling approach.
Conclusions: This study extends our knowledge of key gene expression patterns and bioontologic attributes underlying early human lung developmental processes. The data also suggest the existence of molecular phases of lung development.
PMCID: PMC2797628  PMID: 19815808
microarrays; surfactant; principal component analysis
9.  Molecular Biomarkers for Quantitative and Discrete COPD Phenotypes 
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an inflammatory lung disorder with complex pathological features and largely unknown etiology. The identification of biomarkers for this disease could aid the development of methods to facilitate earlier diagnosis, the classification of disease subtypes, and provide a means to define therapeutic response. To identify gene expression biomarkers, we completed expression profiling of RNA derived from the lung tissue of 56 subjects with varying degrees of airflow obstruction using the Affymetrix U133 Plus 2.0 array. We applied multiple, independent analytical methods to define biomarkers for either discrete or quantitative disease phenotypes. Analysis of differential expression between cases (n = 15) and controls (n = 18) identified a set of 65 discrete biomarkers. Correlation of gene expression with quantitative measures of airflow obstruction (FEV1%predicted or FEV1/FVC) identified a set of 220 biomarkers. Biomarker genes were enriched in functions related to DNA binding and regulation of transcription. We used this group of biomarkers to predict disease in an unrelated data set, generated from patients with severe emphysema, with 97% accuracy. Our data contribute to the understanding of gene expression changes occurring in the lung tissue of patients with obstructive lung disease and provide additional insight into potential mechanisms involved in the disease process. Furthermore, we present the first gene expression biomarker for COPD validated in an independent data set.
PMCID: PMC2645534  PMID: 18849563
microarray; gene expression; emphysema; lung function
10.  HIF1A Reduces Acute Lung Injury by Optimizing Carbohydrate Metabolism in the Alveolar Epithelium 
PLoS Biology  2013;11(9):e1001665.
A study of acute lung injury reveals the involvement of transcription factor HIF1A in lung protection, where normoxic HIF1A stabilization functions to control alveolar epithelial glucose metabolism.
While acute lung injury (ALI) contributes significantly to critical illness, it resolves spontaneously in many instances. The majority of patients experiencing ALI require mechanical ventilation. Therefore, we hypothesized that mechanical ventilation and concomitant stretch-exposure of pulmonary epithelia could activate endogenous pathways important in lung protection.
Methods and Findings
To examine transcriptional responses during ALI, we exposed pulmonary epithelia to cyclic mechanical stretch conditions—an in vitro model resembling mechanical ventilation. A genome-wide screen revealed a transcriptional response similar to hypoxia signaling. Surprisingly, we found that stabilization of hypoxia-inducible factor 1A (HIF1A) during stretch conditions in vitro or during ventilator-induced ALI in vivo occurs under normoxic conditions. Extension of these findings identified a functional role for stretch-induced inhibition of succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) in mediating normoxic HIF1A stabilization, concomitant increases in glycolytic capacity, and improved tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle function. Pharmacologic studies with HIF activator or inhibitor treatment implicated HIF1A-stabilization in attenuating pulmonary edema and lung inflammation during ALI in vivo. Systematic deletion of HIF1A in the lungs, endothelia, myeloid cells, or pulmonary epithelia linked these findings to alveolar-epithelial HIF1A. In vivo analysis of 13C-glucose metabolites utilizing liquid-chromatography tandem mass-spectrometry demonstrated that increases in glycolytic capacity, improvement of mitochondrial respiration, and concomitant attenuation of lung inflammation during ALI were specific for alveolar-epithelial expressed HIF1A.
These studies reveal a surprising role for HIF1A in lung protection during ALI, where normoxic HIF1A stabilization and HIF-dependent control of alveolar-epithelial glucose metabolism function as an endogenous feedback loop to dampen lung inflammation.
Author Summary
Acute lung injury is a devastating lung disease caused by injuries or acute infections to the lung. In patients it manifests itself as acute respiratory distress syndrome. Severe pulmonary edema and uncontrolled lung inflammation are typical symptoms of acute lung injury, which make it hard for patients to breath efficiently. In the clinical course of the disease, patients require mechanical ventilation to support their lung function and to provide sufficient oxygen levels to vital organs such as the brain, the heart, or the kidneys. We hypothesized that stretch conditions—such as those that occur during mechanical ventilation—result in transcriptional adaptation of alveolar epithelial cells—the innermost lining of the lungs. In this study we identified an unexpected involvement of the transcription factor hypoxia-inducible factor HIF1A in lung protection. We observed that during acute lung injury, stabilization of HIF1A is mediated by increased levels of succinate, an intermediate product of the citrate cycle. Interestingly, we show that HIF1A in alveolar epithelia functions to induce a transcriptional program that improves the efficiency of carbohydrate metabolism by injured lungs, thereby helping to adapt to the injurious conditions of mechanical stretch and to reduce lung inflammation. These preclinical findings highlight the potential for pharmacological HIF1A stabilization in the treatment of acute lung injury.
PMCID: PMC3782424  PMID: 24086109
11.  Expression Profiles of the Mouse Lung Identify a Molecular Signature of Time-to-Birth 
A greater understanding of the regulatory processes contributing to lung development could help ameliorate morbidity and mortality in premature infants and identify individuals at risk for congenital and/or chronic lung diseases. Genomics technologies have provided rich gene expression datasets for the developing lung that enable systems biology approaches for identifying large-scale molecular signatures within this complex phenomenon. Here, we applied unsupervised principal component analysis on two developing lung datasets and identified common dominant transcriptomic signatures. Of particular interest, we identify an overlying biological program we term “time-to-birth,” which describes the distance in age from the day of birth. We identify groups of genes contributing to the time-to-birth molecular signature. Statistically overrepresented are genes involved in oxygen and gas transport activity, as expected for a transition to air breathing, as well as host defense function. In addition, we identify genes with expression patterns associated with the initiation of alveolar formation. Finally, we present validation of gene expression patterns across the two datasets, and independent validation of select genes by qPCR and immunohistochemistry. These data contribute to our understanding of genetic components contributing to large-scale biological processes and may be useful, particularly in animal models of abnormal lung development, to predict the state of organ development or preparation for birth.
PMCID: PMC2606946  PMID: 18664640
lung development; microarray; principal component analysis
13.  Conditional Deletion of Nrf2 in Airway Epithelium Exacerbates Acute Lung Injury and Impairs the Resolution of Inflammation 
Oxidant stress, resulting from an excess of reactive electrophiles produced in the lung by both resident (epithelial and endothelial) and infiltrated leukocytes, is thought to play an obligatory role in tissue injury and abnormal repair. Previously, using a conventional (whole-body) knockout model, we showed that antioxidative gene induction regulated by the transcription factor Nrf2 is critical for mitigating oxidant-induced (hyperoxic) stress, as well as for preventing and resolving tissue injury and inflammation in vivo. However, the contribution to pathogenic acute lung injury (ALI) of the cellular stress produced by resident versus infiltrated leukocytes remains largely undefined in vivo. To address this critical gap in our knowledge, we generated mice with a conditional deletion of Nrf2 specifically in Clara cells, subjected these mice to hyperoxic insult, and allowed them to recover. We report that a deficiency of Nrf2 in airway epithelia alone is sufficient to contribute to the development and progression of ALI. When exposed to hyperoxia, mice lacking Nrf2 in Clara cells showed exacerbated lung injury, accompanied by greater levels of cell death and epithelial sloughing than in their wild-type littermates. In addition, we found that an Nrf2 deficiency in Clara cells is associated with a persistent inflammatory response and epithelial sloughing in the lungs during recovery from sublethal hyperoxic insult. Our results demonstrate (for the first time, to the best of our knowledge) that Nrf2 signaling in Clara cells is critical for conferring protection from hyperoxic lung injury and for resolving inflammation during the repair process.
PMCID: PMC3262666  PMID: 21659655
oxidative stress; lung injury and repair; inflammation
14.  Identification of FGF7 as a novel susceptibility locus for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 
Thorax  2011;66(12):1085-1090.
Traditional genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of large cohort of subjects with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have successfully identified novel candidate genes, but several other plausible loci do not meet strict criteria for genome-wide significance after correction for multiple testing.
We hypothesize that by applying unbiased weights derived from unique populations we can identify additional COPD susceptibility loci.
We performed a homozygosity haplotype analysis on a group of subjects with and without COPD to identify regions of conserved homozygosity (RCHH). Weights were constructed based on the frequency of these RCHH in case vs. controls, and used to adjust the P values from a large collaborative GWAS of COPD.
We identified 2,318 regions of conserved homozygosity, of which 576 were significantly (P < .05) overrepresented in cases. After applying the weights constructed from these regions to a collaborative GWAS of COPD, we identified two single nucleotide polymorphisms in a novel gene (FGF7) that gained genome-wide significance by the false discovery rate method. In a follow-up analysis, both SNPs (rs12591300 and rs4480740) were significantly associated with COPD in an independent population (combined P values of 7.9E-07 and 2.8E-06 respectively). In another independent population, increased lung tissue FGF7 expression was associated with worse measures of lung function.
Weights constructed from a homozygosity haplotype analysis of an isolated population successfully identify novel genetic associations from a GWAS on a separate population. This method can be used to identify promising candidate genes that fail to meet strict correction for multiple testing.
PMCID: PMC3348619  PMID: 21921092
15.  SOX5 Is a Candidate Gene for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Susceptibility and Is Necessary for Lung Development 
Rationale: Chromosome 12p has been linked to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in the Boston Early-Onset COPD Study (BEOCOPD), but a susceptibility gene in that region has not been identified.
Objectives: We used high-density single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) mapping to implicate a COPD susceptibility gene and an animal model to determine the potential role of SOX5 in lung development and COPD.
Methods: On chromosome 12p, we genotyped 1,387 SNPs in 386 COPD cases from the National Emphysema Treatment Trial and 424 control smokers from the Normative Aging Study. SNPs with significant associations were then tested in the BEOCOPD study and the International COPD Genetics Network. Based on the human results, we assessed histology and gene expression in the lungs of Sox5−/− mice.
Measurements and Main Results: In the case-control analysis, 27 SNPs were significant at P ≤ 0.01. The most significant SNP in the BEOCOPD replication was rs11046966 (National Emphysema Treatment Trial–Normative Aging Study P = 6.0 × 10−4, BEOCOPD P = 1.5 × 10−5, combined P = 1.7 × 10−7), located 3′ to the gene SOX5. Association with rs11046966 was not replicated in the International COPD Genetics Network. Sox5−/− mice showed abnormal lung development, with a delay in maturation before the saccular stage, as early as E16.5. Lung pathology in Sox5−/− lungs was associated with a decrease in fibronectin expression, an extracellular matrix component critical for branching morphogenesis.
Conclusions: Genetic variation in the transcription factor SOX5 is associated with COPD susceptibility. A mouse model suggests that the effect may be due, in part, to its effects on lung development and/or repair processes.
PMCID: PMC3137139  PMID: 21330457
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; emphysema; knockout mice; lung development; single nucleotide polymorphism
16.  Expression analysis of asthma candidate genes during human and murine lung development 
Respiratory Research  2011;12(1):86.
Little is known about the role of most asthma susceptibility genes during human lung development. Genetic determinants for normal lung development are not only important early in life, but also for later lung function.
To investigate the role of expression patterns of well-defined asthma susceptibility genes during human and murine lung development. We hypothesized that genes influencing normal airways development would be over-represented by genes associated with asthma.
Asthma genes were first identified via comprehensive search of the current literature. Next, we analyzed their expression patterns in the developing human lung during the pseudoglandular (gestational age, 7-16 weeks) and canalicular (17-26 weeks) stages of development, and in the complete developing lung time series of 3 mouse strains: A/J, SW, C57BL6.
In total, 96 genes with association to asthma in at least two human populations were identified in the literature. Overall, there was no significant over-representation of the asthma genes among genes differentially expressed during lung development, although trends were seen in the human (Odds ratio, OR 1.22, confidence interval, CI 0.90-1.62) and C57BL6 mouse (OR 1.41, CI 0.92-2.11) data. However, differential expression of some asthma genes was consistent in both developing human and murine lung, e.g. NOD1, EDN1, CCL5, RORA and HLA-G. Among the asthma genes identified in genome wide association studies, ROBO1, RORA, HLA-DQB1, IL2RB and PDE10A were differentially expressed during human lung development.
Our data provide insight about the role of asthma susceptibility genes during lung development and suggest common mechanisms underlying lung morphogenesis and pathogenesis of respiratory diseases.
PMCID: PMC3141421  PMID: 21699702
Asthma; Development; Expression; Genetics; Lung
17.  Deletion of Keap1 in the Lung Attenuates Acute Cigarette Smoke–Induced Oxidative Stress and Inflammation 
Exposure to cigarette smoke (CS) is the primary factor associated with the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). CS increases the level of oxidants in the lungs, resulting in a depletion of antioxidants, which promotes oxidative stress and the destruction of alveolar tissue. In response to CS, pulmonary epithelial cells counteract increased levels of oxidants by activating Nrf2-dependent pathways to augment the expression of detoxification and antioxidant enzymes, thereby protecting the lung from injury. We hypothesize that increasing the pathways activated by Nrf2 will afford protection against CS-induced lung damage. To this end we have developed a novel mouse model in which the cytosolic inhibitor of Nrf2, Keap1, is genetically deleted in Clara cells, which predominate in the upper airways in mice. Deletion of Keap1 in Clara cells resulted in increased expression of Nrf2-dependent genes, such as Nqo1 and Gclm, as determined by microarray analysis and quantitative PCR. Deletion of Keap1 in airway epithelium decreased Keap1 protein levels and significantly increased the total level of glutathione in the lungs. Increased Nrf2 activation protected Clara cells against oxidative stress ex vivo and attenuated oxidative stress and CS-induced inflammation in vivo. Expression of KEAP1 was also decreased in human epithelial cells through siRNA transfection, which increased the expression of Nrf2-dependent genes and attenuated oxidative stress. In conclusion, activating Nrf2 pathways in tissue-specific Keap1 knockout mice represents an important genetic approach against oxidant-induced lung damage.
PMCID: PMC2874439  PMID: 19520915
cigarette smoke; Nrf2; Keap1; inflammation; oxidative stress
18.  Peripheral blood gene expression profiles in COPD subjects 
To identify non-invasive gene expression markers for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), we performed genome-wide expression profiling of peripheral blood samples from 12 subjects with significant airflow obstruction and an equal number of non-obstructed controls. RNA was isolated from Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells (PBMCs) and gene expression was assessed using Affymetrix U133 Plus 2.0 arrays.
Tests for gene expression changes that discriminate between COPD cases (FEV1< 70% predicted, FEV1/FVC < 0.7) and controls (FEV1> 80% predicted, FEV1/FVC > 0.7) were performed using Significance Analysis of Microarrays (SAM) and Bayesian Analysis of Differential Gene Expression (BADGE). Using either test at high stringency (SAM median FDR = 0 or BADGE p < 0.01) we identified differential expression for 45 known genes. Correlation of gene expression with lung function measurements (FEV1 & FEV1/FVC), using both Pearson and Spearman correlation coefficients (p < 0.05), identified a set of 86 genes. A total of 16 markers showed evidence of significant correlation (p < 0.05) with quantitative traits and differential expression between cases and controls. We further compared our peripheral gene expression markers with those we previously identified from lung tissue of the same cohort. Two genes, RP9and NAPE-PLD, were identified as decreased in COPD cases compared to controls in both lung tissue and blood. These results contribute to our understanding of gene expression changes in the peripheral blood of patients with COPD and may provide insight into potential mechanisms involved in the disease.
PMCID: PMC3164605  PMID: 21884629
Microarray; Biomarkers; PBMC
19.  PPARγ deficiency results in reduced lung elastic recoil and abnormalities in airspace distribution 
Respiratory Research  2010;11(1):69.
Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR)-γ is a nuclear hormone receptor that regulates gene expression, cell proliferation and differentiation. We previously described airway epithelial cell PPARγ deficient mice that develop airspace enlargement with decreased tissue resistance and increased lung volumes. We sought to understand the impact of airspace enlargement in conditionally targeted mice upon the physio-mechanical properties of the lung.
We measured elastic recoil and its determinants, including tissue structure and surface forces. We measured alveolar number using radial alveolar counts, and airspace sizes and their distribution using computer-assisted morphometry.
Air vs. saline-filled pressure volume profiles demonstrated loss of lung elastic recoil in targeted mice that was contributed by both tissue components and surface tension, but was proportional to lung volume. There were no significant differences in surfactant quantity/function nor in elastin and collagen content between targeted animals and littermate controls. Importantly, radial alveolar counts were significantly reduced in the targeted animals and at 8 weeks of age there were 18% fewer alveoli with 32% more alveolar ducts. Additionally, the alveolar ducts were 19% larger in the targeted animals.
Our data suggest that the functional abnormalities, including loss of recoil are secondary to altered force transmission due to differences in the structure of alveolar ducts, rather than changes in surfactant function or elastin or collagen content. These data further define the nature of abnormal lung maturation in the absence of airway epithelial cell PPARγ and identify a putative genetic determinant of dysanapsis, which may serve as a precursor to chronic lung disease.
PMCID: PMC2889874  PMID: 20525205
20.  Airway Lipoxin A4 Generation and Lipoxin A4 Receptor Expression Are Decreased in Severe Asthma 
Rationale: Airway inflammation is common in severe asthma despite antiinflammatory therapy with corticosteroids. Lipoxin A4 (LXA4) is an arachidonic acid–derived mediator that serves as an agonist for resolution of inflammation.
Objectives: Airway levels of LXA4, as well as the expression of lipoxin biosynthetic genes and receptors, in severe asthma.
Methods: Samples of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid were obtained from subjects with asthma and levels of LXA4 and related eicosanoids were measured. Expression of lipoxin biosynthetic genes was determined in whole blood, bronchoalveolar lavage cells, and endobronchial biopsies by quantitative polymerase chain reaction, and leukocyte LXA4 receptors were monitored by flow cytometry.
Measurements and Main Results: Individuals with severe asthma had significantly less LXA4 in bronchoalveolar lavage fluids (11.2 ± 2.1 pg/ml) than did subjects with nonsevere asthma (150.1 ± 38.5 pg/ml; P < 0.05). In contrast, levels of cysteinyl leukotrienes were increased in both asthma cohorts compared with healthy individuals. In severe asthma, 15-lipoxygenase-1 mean expression was decreased fivefold in bronchoalveolar lavage cells. In contrast, 15-lipoxgenase-1 was increased threefold in endobronchial biopsies, but expression of both 5-lipoxygenase and 15-lipoxygenase-2 in these samples was decreased. Cyclooxygenase-2 expression was decreased in all anatomic compartments sampled in severe asthma. Moreover, LXA4 receptor gene and protein expression were significantly decreased in severe asthma peripheral blood granulocytes.
Conclusions: Mechanisms underlying pathological airway responses in severe asthma include lipoxin underproduction with decreased expression of lipoxin biosynthetic enzymes and receptors. Together, these results indicate that severe asthma is characterized, in part, by defective lipoxin counterregulatory signaling circuits.
PMCID: PMC2542432  PMID: 18583575
severe asthma; lipoxins; eicosanoids
21.  Platform dependence of inference on gene-wise and gene-set involvement in human lung development 
BMC Bioinformatics  2009;10:189.
With the recent development of microarray technologies, the comparability of gene expression data obtained from different platforms poses an important problem. We evaluated two widely used platforms, Affymetrix U133 Plus 2.0 and the Illumina HumanRef-8 v2 Expression Bead Chips, for comparability in a biological system in which changes may be subtle, namely fetal lung tissue as a function of gestational age.
We performed the comparison via sequence-based probe matching between the two platforms. "Significance grouping" was defined as a measure of comparability. Using both expression correlation and significance grouping as measures of comparability, we demonstrated that despite overall cross-platform differences at the single gene level, increased correlation between the two platforms was found in genes with higher expression level, higher probe overlap, and lower p-value. We also demonstrated that biological function as determined via KEGG pathways or GO categories is more consistent across platforms than single gene analysis.
We conclude that while the comparability of the platforms at the single gene level may be increased by increasing sample size, they are highly comparable ontologically even for subtle differences in a relatively small sample size. Biologically relevant inference should therefore be reproducible across laboratories using different platforms.
PMCID: PMC2711081  PMID: 19545372
22.  Pulmonary Exposure to Particles during Pregnancy Causes Increased Neonatal Asthma Susceptibility 
Maternal immune responses can promote allergy development in offspring, as shown in a model of increased susceptibility to asthma in babies of ovalbumin (OVA)-sensitized and -challenged mother mice. We investigated whether inflammatory responses to air pollution particles (diesel exhaust particles, DEP) or control “inert” titanium dioxide (TiO2) particles are enhanced during pregnancy and whether exposure to particles can cause increased neonatal susceptibility to asthma. Pregnant BALB/c mice (or nonpregnant controls) received particle suspensions intranasally at Day 14 of pregnancy. Lung inflammatory responses were evaluated 48 hours after exposure. Offspring of particle- or buffer-treated mothers were sensitized and aerosolized with OVA, followed by assays of airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR) and allergic inflammation (AI). Nonpregnant females had the expected minimal response to “inert” TiO2. In contrast, pregnant mice showed robust and persistent acute inflammation after both TiO2 and DEP. Genomic profiling identified genes differentially expressed in pregnant lungs exposed to TiO2. Neonates of mothers exposed to TiO2 (and DEP, but not PBS) developed AHR and AI, indicating that pregnancy exposure to both “inert” TiO2 and DEP caused increased asthma susceptibility in offspring. We conclude that (1) pregnancy enhances lung inflammatory responses to otherwise relatively innocuous inert particles; and (2) exposures of nonallergic pregnant females to inert or toxic environmental air particles can cause increased allergic susceptibility in offspring.
PMCID: PMC2176127  PMID: 17656681
maternal asthma; environmental particles; titanuim dioxide; diesel exhaust particles; susceptibility
23.  Cathepsin S Deficiency Confers Protection from Neonatal Hyperoxia-induced Lung Injury 
Rationale: Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) is a chronic lung disease that adversely affects long-term pulmonary function as well as neurodevelopmental outcomes of preterm infants. Elastolytic proteases have been implicated in the pathogenesis of BPD. Cathepsin S (cat S) is a cysteine protease with potent elastolytic activity. Increased levels and activity of cat S have been detected in a baboon model of BPD.
Objectives: To investigate whether deficiency of cat S alters the course of hyperoxia-induced neonatal lung injury in mice.
Methods: Newborn wild-type and cat S–deficient mice were exposed to 80% oxygen for 14 days. Histologic and morphometric analysis were performed and bronchoalveolar lavage protein and cells were analyzed. Lung elastin was assessed by real-time polymerase chain reaction, in situ hybridization, desmosine analysis, and Hart's stain. Distribution of myofibroblasts was analyzed by immunofluorescence. Hydroxyproline content of lung tissues was measured.
Measurements and Main Results: Hyperoxia-exposed cat S–deficient mice were protected from growth restriction and had improved alveolarization, decreased septal wall thickness, lower number of macrophages, and lower protein concentration in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid. α-Smooth muscle actin–expressing myofibroblasts accounted for at least some of the increased interstitial cellularity in hyperoxia-exposed mouse lungs and were significantly less in cat S–deficient lungs. Lung hydroxyproline content was increased in hyperoxia-exposed wild-type, but not in cat S–deficient lungs. Desmosine content was significantly reduced in both genotypes with hyperoxia.
Conclusions: Cathepsin S deficiency improves alveolarization, and attenuates macrophage influx and fibroproliferative changes in hyperoxia-induced neonatal mouse lung injury.
PMCID: PMC2020827  PMID: 17673697
cathepsin; bronchopulmonary dysplasia; hyperoxia; myofibroblast
24.  Induction of the Plasminogen Activator System by Mechanical Stimulation of Human Bronchial Epithelial Cells 
Mechanical stimulation of the airway epithelium, as would occur during bronchoconstriction, is a potent stimulus and can activate profibrotic pathways. We used DNA microarray technology to examine gene expression in compressed normal human bronchial epithelial cells (NHBE). Compressive stress applied continuously over an 8-h period to NHBE cells led to the upregulation of several families of genes, including a family of plasminogen-related genes that were previously not known to be regulated in this system. Real-time PCR demonstrated a peak increase in gene expression of 8.0-fold for urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA), 16.2-fold for urokinase plasminogen activator receptor (uPAR), 4.2-fold for plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1), and 3.9-fold for tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). Compressive stress also increased uPA protein levels in the cell lysates (112.0 versus 82.0 ng/ml, P = 0.0004), and increased uPA (4.7 versus 3.3 ng/ml, P = 0.02), uPAR (1.3 versus 0.86 ng/ml, P = 0.007), and PAI-1 (50 versus 36 ng/ml, P = 0.006) protein levels in cell culture media. Functional studies demonstrated increased urokinase-dependent plasmin generation in compression-stimulated cells (0.0090 versus 0.0033 OD/min, P = 0.03). In addition, compression led to increased activation of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-9 and MMP-2 in a urokinase-dependent manner. In postmortem human lung tissue, we observed an increase in epithelial uPA and uPAR immunostaining in the airways of two patients who died in status asthmaticus compared with minimal immunoreactivity noted in airways from seven lung donors without asthma. Together these observations suggest an integrated response of airway epithelial cells to mechanical stimulation, acting through the plasminogen-activating system to modify the airway microenvironment.
PMCID: PMC2643292  PMID: 16794260
plasminogen activator system; matrix metalloproteinase 9; bronchial epithelial cells; mechanical stimulation; DNA microarrays
25.  Role of PPARs and Retinoid X Receptors in the Regulation of Lung Maturation and Development 
PPAR Research  2007;2007:91240.
Understanding lung development has significant importance to public health because of the fact that interruptions in the normal developmental processes can have prominent effects on childhood and adult lung health. It is widely appreciated that the retinoic acid (RA) pathway plays an important role in lung development. Additionally, PPARs are believed to partner with receptors of this pathway and therefore could be considered extensions of retinoic acid function, including during lung development. This review will begin by introducing the relationship between the retinoic acid pathway and PPARs followed by an overview of lung development stages and regulation to conclude with details on PPARs and the retinoic acid pathway as they may relate to lung development.
PMCID: PMC1940052  PMID: 17710236

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