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1.  Suppression of NLRX1 in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2015;125(6):2458-2462.
Cigarette smoke (CS) and viruses promote the inflammation and remodeling associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The MAVS/RIG-I–like helicase (MAVS/RLH) pathway and inflammasome-dependent innate immune pathways are important mediators of these responses. At baseline, the MAVS/RLH pathway is suppressed, and this inhibition must be reversed to engender tissue effects; however, the mechanisms that mediate activation and repression of the pathway have not been defined. In addition, the regulation and contribution of MAVS/RLH signaling in CS-induced inflammation and remodeling responses and in the development of human COPD remain unaddressed. Here, we demonstrate that expression of NLRX1, which inhibits the MAVS/RLH pathway and regulates other innate immune responses, was markedly decreased in 3 independent cohorts of COPD patients. NLRX1 suppression correlated directly with disease severity and inversely with pulmonary function, quality of life, and prognosis. In murine models, CS inhibited NLRX1, and CS-induced inflammation, alveolar destruction, protease induction, structural cell apoptosis, and inflammasome activation were augmented in NLRX1-deficient animals. Conversely, MAVS deficiency abrogated this CS-induced inflammation and remodeling. Restoration of NLRX1 in CS-exposed animals ameliorated alveolar destruction. These data support a model in which CS-dependent NLRX1 inhibition facilitates MAVS/RHL activation and subsequent inflammation, remodeling, protease, cell death, and inflammasome responses.
PMCID: PMC4497738  PMID: 25938787
Inflammation; Pulmonology
2.  Chitinase 3-like 1 synergistically activates IL6-mediated STAT3 phosphorylation in intestinal epithelial cells in murine models of infectious colitis 
Inflammatory bowel diseases  2014;20(5):835-846.
Chitinase 3-like 1 (CHI3L1) is an inducible molecule on intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) during the development inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
To investigate the role of CHI3L1 in bacterial infectious colitis, we orally inoculated pathogenic Salmonella typhimurium and potentially pathogenic adherent-invasive Escherichia coli (AIEC) LF82 virulent strain, into C57Bl/6 wild-type (WT) or CHI3L1 knockout (KO) mice.
Both S. typhimurium and AIEC LF82 were found to efficiently induce severe intestinal inflammation in WT but not CHI3L1 KO mice. These bacteria-infected CHI3L1 KO mice exhibit decreased cellular infiltration, bacterial translocation and productions of IL-6 and IL-22, as compared to those of WT mice. More importantly, CHI3L1 KO mice displayed aberrant STAT3 activation after bacterial infections. Co-stimulation of CHI3L1 and IL-6, but not IL-22, synergistically activates STAT3 signaling pathway in IECs in an NF-κB/MAPK dependent manner.
CHI3L1 promotes the onset of selected gram-negative bacterial infectious colitis through IL-6/STAT3 pathway.
PMCID: PMC4012618  PMID: 24694795
chitinase; cytokine; STAT3; intestinal epithelial cells
3.  Epithelial Cell Mitochondrial Dysfunction and PINK1 Are Induced by Transforming Growth Factor- Beta1 in Pulmonary Fibrosis 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(3):e0121246.
Epithelial cell death is a major contributor to fibrogenesis in the lung. In this study, we sought to determine the function of mitochondria and their clearance (mitophagy) in alveolar epithelial cell death and fibrosis.
We studied markers of mitochondrial injury and the mitophagy marker, PTEN-induced putative kinase 1 (PINK1), in IPF lung tissues by Western blotting, transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and immunofluorescence. In vitro experiments were carried out in lung epithelial cells stimulated with transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1). Changes in cell function were measured by Western blotting, flow cytometry and immunofluorescence. In vivo experiments were performed using the murine bleomycin model of lung fibrosis.
Evaluation of IPF lung tissue demonstrated increased PINK1 expression by Western blotting and immunofluorescence and increased numbers of damaged mitochondria by TEM. In lung epithelial cells, TGF-β1 induced mitochondrial depolarization, mitochondrial ROS, and PINK1 expression; all were abrogated by mitochondrial ROS scavenging. Finally, Pink1-/- mice were more susceptible than control mice to bleomycin induced lung fibrosis.
TGF-β1 induces lung epithelial cell mitochondrial ROS and depolarization and stabilizes the key mitophagy initiating protein, PINK1. PINK1 ameliorates epithelial cell death and may be necessary to limit fibrogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4364993  PMID: 25785991
4.  Chitin Recognition via Chitotriosidase Promotes Pathologic Type-2 Helper T Cell Responses to Cryptococcal Infection 
PLoS Pathogens  2015;11(3):e1004701.
Pulmonary mycoses are often associated with type-2 helper T (Th2) cell responses. However, mechanisms of Th2 cell accumulation are multifactorial and incompletely known. To investigate Th2 cell responses to pulmonary fungal infection, we developed a peptide-MHCII tetramer to track antigen-specific CD4+ T cells produced in response to infection with the fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans. We noted massive accruement of pathologic cryptococcal antigen-specific Th2 cells in the lungs following infection that was coordinated by lung-resident CD11b+ IRF4-dependent conventional dendritic cells. Other researchers have demonstrated that this dendritic cell subset is also capable of priming protective Th17 cell responses to another pulmonary fungal infection, Aspergillus fumigatus. Thus, higher order detection of specific features of fungal infection by these dendritic cells must direct Th2 cell lineage commitment. Since chitin-containing parasites commonly elicit Th2 responses, we hypothesized that recognition of fungal chitin is an important determinant of Th2 cell-mediated mycosis. Using C. neoformans mutants or purified chitin, we found that chitin abundance impacted Th2 cell accumulation and disease. Importantly, we determined Th2 cell induction depended on cleavage of chitin via the mammalian chitinase, chitotriosidase, an enzyme that was also prevalent in humans experiencing overt cryptococcosis. The data presented herein offers a new perspective on fungal disease susceptibility, whereby chitin recognition via chitotriosidase leads to the initiation of harmful Th2 cell differentiation by CD11b+ conventional dendritic cells in response to pulmonary fungal infection.
Author Summary
Humans often inhale potentially pathogenic fungi in the environment. While CD4+ helper T (Th) cells are required for protection against invasive disease, a subset of Th cells, called Th2 cells, are associated with increased mortality and allergy/asthma morbidity. Our study aimed to unravel the cellular and molecular basis of pulmonary Th2 cell induction in response to lethal infection with Cryptococcus neoformans. Antigen-presenting cells coordinate naïve Th cell priming and differentiation, but the precise leukocyte responsible for Th2 cell expansion to pulmonary cryptococcal infection has not been determined. Using an experimental mouse model of pulmonary cryptococcosis, we show that a subset of lung-resident dendritic cells is uniquely required for Th2 cell induction. We additionally sought to identify the molecular signal received by the host that allows dendritic cells to selectively induce Th2 cells. Since parasites and fungi elicit Th2 cell responses and both produce chitin, a molecule not found in vertebrates, we hypothesized that recognition of fungal chitin is a determinant of fungal disease. Here, we demonstrate that C. neoformans chitin and the host-derived chitinase, chitotriosidase, promote Th2 cell accumulation and disease. These findings highlight a promising target of next generation therapies aimed at limiting immunopathology caused by pulmonary fungal infection.
PMCID: PMC4357429  PMID: 25764512
5.  Chitinase 3–like 1 Suppresses Injury and Promotes Fibroproliferative Responses in Mammalian Lung Fibrosis 
Science translational medicine  2014;6(240):240ra76.
Epithelial injury, alternative macrophage accumulation, and fibroproliferation coexist in the lungs of patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Chitinase 3–like 1 (CHI3L1) is a prototypic chitinase-like protein that has been retained over species and evolutionary time. However, the regulation of CHI3L1 in IPF and its ability to regulate injury and/or fibroproliferative repair have not been fully defined. We demonstrated that CHI3L1 levels were elevated in patients with IPF. High levels of CHI3L1 are associated with progression—as defined by lung transplantation or death—and with scavenger receptor–expressing circulating monocytes in an ambulatory IPF population. In preterminal acute exacerbations of IPF, CHI3L1 levels were reduced and associated with increased levels of apoptosis. We also demonstrated that in bleomycin-treated mice, CHI3L1 expression was acutely and transiently decreased during the injury phase and returned toward and eventually exceeded baseline levels during the fibrotic phase. In this model, CHI3L1 played a protective role in injury by ameliorating inflammation and cell death, and a profibrotic role in the repair phase by augmenting alternative macrophage activation, fibroblast proliferation, and matrix deposition. Using three-dimensional culture system of a human fibroblast cell line, we found that CHI3L1 is sufficient to induce low grade myofibroblast transformation. In combination, these studies demonstrate that CHI3L1 is stimulated in IPF, where it represents an attempt to diminish injury and induce repair. They also demonstrate that high levels of CHI3L1 are associated with disease progression in ambulatory patients and that a failure of the CHI3L1 antiapoptotic response might contribute to preterminal disease exacerbations.
PMCID: PMC4340473  PMID: 24920662
6.  Chitinase 1 Is a Biomarker for and Therapeutic Target in Scleroderma-Associated Interstitial Lung Disease That Augments TGF-β1 Signaling 
Interstitial lung disease (ILD) with pulmonary fibrosis is an important manifestation in systemic sclerosis (SSc, scleroderma) where it portends a poor prognosis. However, biomarkers that predict the development and or severity of SSc-ILD have not been validated, and the pathogenetic mechanisms that engender this pulmonary response are poorly understood. In this study, we demonstrate in two different patient cohorts that the levels of chitotriosidase (Chit1) bioactivity and protein are significantly increased in the circulation and lungs of SSc patients compared with demographically matched controls. We also demonstrate that, compared with patients without lung involvement, patients with ILD show high levels of circulating Chit1 activity that correlate with disease severity. Murine modeling shows that in comparison with wild-type mice, bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis was significantly reduced in Chit1−/− mice and significantly enhanced in lungs from Chit1 overexpressing transgenic animals. In vitro studies also demonstrated that Chit1 interacts with TGF-β1 to augment fibroblast TGF-β receptors 1 and 2 expression and TGF-β–induced Smad and MAPK/ERK activation. These studies indicate that Chit1 is potential biomarker for ILD in SSc and a therapeutic target in SSc-associated lung fibrosis and demonstrate that Chit1 augments TGF-β1 effects by increasing receptor expression and canonical and noncanonical TGF-β1 signaling.
PMCID: PMC4336775  PMID: 22826322
7.  Role of RNase L in Viral PAMP/Influenza Virus and Cigarette Smoke-induced Inflammation and Remodeling 
Interactions between cigarette smoke (CS) exposure and viral infection play an important role(s) in the pathogenesis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and a variety of other disorders. A variety of lines of evidence suggest that this interaction induces exaggerated inflammatory, cytokine and tissue remodeling responses. We hypothesized that the 2′-5′OAS/RNase L system, an innate immune antiviral pathway, plays an important role in the pathogenesis of these exaggerated responses. To test this hypothesis we characterize the activation of 2′-5′ oligoadenylate synthase (OAS) in lungs from mice exposed to CS and viral PAMPs/live virus, alone and in combination. We also evaluated the inflammatory and remodeling responses induced by CS and virus/viral PAMPs in lungs from RNase L null and wild type mice. These studies demonstrate that CS and viral PAMPs/live virus interact in a synergistic manner to stimulate the production of select OAS moieties. They also demonstrate that RNase L plays a critical role in the pathogenesis of the exaggerated inflammatory, fibrotic, emphysematous, apoptotic, TGF-β1 and type I IFN responses induced by CS plus virus/viral PAMP in combination. These studies demonstrate that CS is an important regulator of antiviral innate immunity, highlight novel roles of RNase L in CS plus virus induced inflammation, tissue remodeling, apoptosis and cytokine elaboration and highlight pathways that may be operative in COPD and mechanistically-related disorders.
PMCID: PMC3750064  PMID: 23913960
8.  Chitinase 3-like 1 Regulates Cellular and Tissue Responses via IL-13 Receptor α2 
Cell reports  2013;4(4):830-841.
Members of the 18 glycosyl hydrolase (GH 18) gene family have been conserved over species and time and are dysregulated in inflammatory, infectious, remodeling, and neoplastic disorders. This is particularly striking for the prototypic chitinase-like protein chitinase 3-like 1 (Chi3l1), which plays a critical role in antipathogen responses where it augments bacterial killing while stimulating disease tolerance by controlling cell death, inflammation, and remodeling. However, receptors that mediate the effects of GH 18 moieties have not been defined. Here, we demonstrate that Chi3l1 binds to interleukin-13 receptor α2 (IL-13Rα2) and that Chi3l1, IL-13Rα2, and IL-13 are in a multimeric complex. We also demonstrate that Chi3l1 activates macrophage mitogen-activated protein kinase, protein kinase B/AKT, and Wnt/β-catenin signaling and regulates oxidant injury, apoptosis, pyroptosis, inflammasome activation, antibacterial responses, melanoma metastasis, and TGF-β1 production via IL-13Rα2-dependent mechanisms. Thus, IL-13Rα2 is a GH 18 receptor that plays a critical role in Chi3l1 effector responses.
PMCID: PMC3988532  PMID: 23972995
9.  Urine YKL-40 is associated with progressive acute kidney injury or death in hospitalized patients 
BMC Nephrology  2014;15:133.
A translational study in renal transplantation suggested YKL-40, a chitinase 3-like-1 gene product, plays an important role in acute kidney injury (AKI) and repair, but data are lacking about this protein in urine from native human kidneys.
This is an ancillary study to a single-center, prospective observational cohort of patients with clinically-defined AKI according to AKI Network serum creatinine criteria. We determined the association of YKL -40 ≥ 5 ng/ml, alone or combined with neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL), in urine collected on the first day of AKI with a clinically important composite outcome (progression to higher AKI stage and/or in-hospital death).
YKL-40 was detectable in all 249 patients, but urinary concentrations were considerably lower than in previously measured deceased-donor kidney transplant recipients. Seventy-two patients (29%) progressed or died in-hospital, and YKL-40 ≥ 5 ng/ml had an adjusted odds ratio (95% confidence interval) for the outcome of 3.4 (1.5-7.7). The addition of YKL-40 to a clinical model for predicting the outcome resulted in a continuous net reclassification improvement of 29% (P = 0.04). In patients at high risk for the outcome based on NGAL concentrations in the upper quartile, YKL-40 further partitioned the cohort into moderate-risk and very high-risk groups.
Urine YKL-40 is associated with AKI progression and/or death in hospitalized patients and improves clinically determined risk reclassification. Combining YKL-40 with other AKI biomarkers like NGAL may further delineate progression risk, though additional studies are needed to determine whether YKL-40 has general applicability and to define its association with longer-term outcomes in AKI.
PMCID: PMC4144686  PMID: 25128003
Acute kidney injury; Biomarker; BRP-39; Chitinase 3-like-1; Net reclassification improvement; YKL-40
10.  Chitinase 3-like 1 is induced by Plasmodium falciparum malaria and predicts outcome of cerebral malaria and severe malarial anaemia in a case–control study of African children 
Malaria Journal  2014;13:279.
Severe and fatal malaria are associated with dysregulated host inflammatory responses to infection. Chitinase 3-like 1 (CHI3L1) is a secreted glycoprotein implicated in regulating immune responses. Expression and function of CHI3L1 in malaria infection were investigated.
Plasma levels of CHI3L1 were quantified in a case–control study of Ugandan children presenting with Plasmodium falciparum malaria. CHI3L1 levels were compared in children with uncomplicated malaria (UM; n = 53), severe malarial anaemia (SMA; n = 59) and cerebral malaria (CM; n = 44) using the Kruskall Wallis-test, and evaluated for utility in predicting fatal (n = 23) versus non-fatal (n = 80) outcomes in severe disease using the Mann Whitney U test, receiver operating characteristic curves, and combinatorial analysis. Co-culture of P. falciparum with human peripheral blood mononuclear cells and the Plasmodium berghei ANKA experimental model of cerebral malaria were used to examine the role of CHI3L1 in severe malaria.
In children presenting with falciparum malaria, CHI3L1 levels were increased in SMA and CM versus UM (p < 0.001). Among severe malaria cases, CHI3L1 levels at presentation predicted subsequent death (area under receiver operating characteristic curve 0.84 [95% CI 0.76-0.92]) and in combination with other host biomarkers, predicted mortality with high sensitivity (100% [85.7-100]) and specificity (81.3% [71.3-88.3]). Plasmodium falciparum stimulated CHI3L1 production by human peripheral blood mononuclear cells in vitro. CHI3L1 was increased in plasma and brain tissue in experimental cerebral malaria, but targeted Chi3l1 deletion did not alter cytokine production or survival in this model.
These data suggest that plasma CHI3L1 measured at presentation correlates with malaria severity and predicts outcome in paediatric SMA and CM, but do not support a causal role for CHI3L1 in cerebral malaria pathobiology in the model tested.
PMCID: PMC4114103  PMID: 25047113
Cerebral malaria; Severe malaria; Chitinase 3-like 1; CHI3L1; Biomarker; Pathogenesis; Inflammation
11.  Plasma Levels of the Proinflammatory Chitin‐Binding Glycoprotein YKL‐40, Variation in the Chitinase 3‐Like 1 Gene (CHI3L1), and Incident Cardiovascular Events 
YKL‐40, encoded by the chitinase 3‐like 1 (CHI3L1) gene, is a chitinase‐like protein involved in innate immune function hypothesized to play a role in the progression of atherosclerosis that may have differential roles in myocardial infarction (MI), as compared to stroke.
Methods and Results
In a nested case‐control study conducted within a prospective cohort of 23 294 initially healthy women of European ancestry, we (1) measured plasma concentration of YKL‐40 among 359 participants who subsequently developed cardiovascular events and among 359 age‐, smoking‐, and hormone replacement therapy–matched participants who remained free of disease during 17 years of follow‐up, (2) compared effects of YKL‐40 on vascular risk to that associated with 3 alternative inflammatory biomarkers (high‐sensitivity C‐reactive protein) ([hsCRP], soluble intracellular adhesion molecule 1, and fibrinogen), and (3) evaluated the role of 41 single‐nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the chitinase 3‐like 1 gene (CHI3L1) as determinants of YKL‐40 levels and incident vascular events. YKL‐40 levels were higher in women with hypertension, diabetes, and obesity and correlated modestly with high‐density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglycerides, and hsCRP, but not with low‐density lipoprotein cholesterol. Baseline YKL‐40 level was significantly associated with incident thromboembolic stroke with a magnitude of effect (a 40% per quartile increase in odds ratio [OR], P=0.019) comparable to that of hsCRP (a 52% per quartile increase in OR, P=0.006). By contrast, no significant association was observed between YKL‐40 and incident MI. Genetic variation in CHI3L1 was strongly associated with YKL‐40 levels; however, in this sample set, we did not observe a statistically significant association between genotype and future vascular events.
Among initially healthy U.S. women, plasma levels of the proinflammatory chitenase‐like protein, YKL‐40, were influenced by environmental as well as genetic factors and predicted incident thromboembolic stroke, but not MI, a differential effect consistent with limited previous data.
PMCID: PMC4309091  PMID: 24958781
chitin; genetics; inflammation; innate immunity; myocardial infarction; stroke
12.  Increased Plasma YKL-40/Chitinase-3-Like-Protein-1 Is Associated with Endothelial Dysfunction in Obstructive Sleep Apnea 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e98629.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common disorder affecting 15–24% of the adults and is associated with increased risk of hypertension and atherosclerosis. The exact mechanisms underlying hypertension in OSA are not entirely clear. YKL-40/Chitinase-3-like protein-1 is a circulating moiety with roles in injury, repair and angiogenesis that is dysregulated in atherosclerosis and a number of other diseases. We sought to determine the role of YKL-40 in endothelial dysfunction and hypertension in OSA.
We studies 23 normotensive OSA (N-OSA) and 14 hypertensive OSA (H-OSA) without diabetes and apparent cardiovascular disease. Endothelial-dependent nitric oxide-mediated vasodilatory capacity was assessed by flow-mediated vasodilation (FMD). YKL-40, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and the soluble form of VEGF receptor-1or sFlt-1 were measured in plasma using ELISA methodology.
N-OSA subjects aged 49.1±2.3 years and H-OSA aged 51.3±1.9 years with BMI 36.1±1.6 and 37.6±1.9 kg/m2, respectively. The apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) was 41±5 events/hr in N-OSA and 46±6 in H-OSA with comparable degree of oxygen desaturations during sleep. FMD was markedly impaired in H-OSA (8.3%±0.8) compared to N-OSA (13.2%±0.6, P<0.0001). Plasma YKL-40 was significantly elevated in H-OSA (55.2±7.9 ng/ml vs. 35.6±4.2 ng/ml in N-OSA, P = 0.02) and had an inverse relationship with FMD (r = −0.52, P = 0.013). There was a significant positive correlation between sFlt-1/VEGF, a measure of decreased VEGF availability, and YKL-40 (r = 0.42, P = 0.04).
The levels of plasma YKL-40 were elevated in H-OSA group and inversely correlated with the endothelial-dependent vasodilatory capacity whereas there was a positive correlation between sFlt-1/VEGF and YKL-40. These findings suggest that YKL-40 is dysregulated, in part, due to perturbation of VEGF signaling, and may contribute to endothelial dysfunction and hypertension in OSA.
PMCID: PMC4039537  PMID: 24878721
13.  Modifiers of TGF-β1 effector function as novel therapeutic targets of pulmonary fibrosis 
Pulmonary fibrosis is a fatal progressive disease with no effective therapy. Transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1 has long been regarded as a central mediator of tissue fibrosis that involves multiple organs including skin, liver, kidney, and lung. Thus, TGF-β1 and its signaling pathways have been attractive therapeutic targets for the development of antifibrotic drugs. However, the essential biological functions of TGF-β1 in maintaining normal immune and cellular homeostasis significantly limit the effectiveness of TGF-β1-directed therapeutic approaches. Thus, targeting downstream mediators or signaling molecules of TGF-β1 could be an alternative approach that selectively inhibits TGF-β1-stimulated fibrotic tissue response while preserving major physiological function of TGF-β1. Recent studies from our laboratory revealed that TGF-β1 crosstalk with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signaling by induction of amphiregulin, a ligand of EGFR, plays a critical role in the development or progression of pulmonary fibrosis. In addition, chitotriosidase, a true chitinase in humans, has been identified to have modulating capacity of TGF-β1 signaling as a new biomarker and therapeutic target of scleroderma-associated pulmonary fibrosis. These newly identified modifiers of TGF-β1 effector function significantly enhance the effectiveness and flexibility in targeting pulmonary fibrosis in which TGF-β1 plays a significant role.
PMCID: PMC4028515  PMID: 24851060
Transforming growth factor beta1; Pulmonary fibrosis; Response modifiers; Amphiregulin; Chitotriosidase
14.  VEGF controls lung Th2 inflammation via the miR-1–Mpl (myeloproliferative leukemia virus oncogene)–P-selectin axis 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2013;210(10):1993-2010.
VEGF dampens the expression of microRNA-1, which drives inflammation in part via increasing the expression of Mpl.
Asthma, the prototypic Th2-mediated inflammatory disorder of the lung, is an emergent disease worldwide. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a critical regulator of pulmonary Th2 inflammation, but the underlying mechanism and the roles of microRNAs (miRNAs) in this process have not been defined. Here we show that lung-specific overexpression of VEGF decreases miR-1 expression in the lung, most prominently in the endothelium, and a similar down-regulation occurs in lung endothelium in Th2 inflammation models. Intranasal delivery of miR-1 inhibited inflammatory responses to ovalbumin, house dust mite, and IL-13 overexpression. Blocking VEGF inhibited Th2-mediated lung inflammation, and this was restored by antagonizing miR-1. Using mRNA arrays, Argonaute pull-down assays, luciferase expression assays, and mutational analysis, we identified Mpl as a direct target of miR-1 and showed that VEGF controls the expression of endothelial Mpl during Th2 inflammation via the regulation of miR-1. In vivo knockdown of Mpl inhibited Th2 inflammation and indirectly inhibited the expression of P-selectin in lung endothelium. These experiments define a novel VEGF–miR-1–Mpl–P-selectin effector pathway in lung Th2 inflammation and herald the utility of miR-1 and Mpl as potential therapeutic targets for asthma.
PMCID: PMC3782056  PMID: 24043765
15.  Semaphorin 7a+ Regulatory T Cells Are Associated with Progressive Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and Are Implicated in Transforming Growth Factor-β1–induced Pulmonary Fibrosis 
Rationale: Lymphocytes are increasingly associated with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Semaphorin 7a (Sema 7a) participates in lymphocyte activation.
Objectives: To define the relationship between Sema 7a and lymphocytes in IPF.
Methods: We characterized the significance of Sema 7a+ lymphocytes in humans with IPF and in a mouse model of lung fibrosis caused by lung-targeted, transgenic overexpression of TGF-β1. We determined the site of Sema 7a expression in human and murine lungs and circulation and used adoptive transfer approaches to define the relevance of lymphocytes coexpressing Sema7a and the markers CD19, CD4, or CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ in TGF-β1–induced murine lung fibrosis.
Measurements and Main Results: Subjects with IPF show expression of Sema 7a on lung CD4+ cells and circulating CD4+ or CD19+ cells. Sema 7a expression is increased on CD4+ cells and CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ regulatory T cells, but not CD19+ cells, in subjects with progressive IPF. Sema 7a is expressed on lymphocytes expressing CD4 but not CD19 in the lungs and spleen of TGF-β1–transgenic mice. Sema 7a expressing bone marrow–derived cells induce lung fibrosis and alter the production of T-cell mediators, including IFN-γ, IL-4, IL-17A, and IL-10. These effects require CD4 but not CD19. In comparison to Sema 7a-CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ cells, Sema7a+CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ cells exhibit reduced expression of regulatory genes such as IL-10, and adoptive transfer of these cells induces fibrosis and remodeling in the TGF-β1–exposed murine lung.
Conclusions: Sema 7a+CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ regulatory T cells are associated with disease progression in subjects with IPF and induce fibrosis in the TGF-β1–exposed murine lung.
PMCID: PMC3570653  PMID: 23220917
Semaphorin; lung; fibrosis; TGF-β1; regulatory T cells
16.  Role of Chitin and Chitinase/Chitinase-Like Proteins in Inflammation, Tissue Remodeling, and Injury 
Annual review of physiology  2011;73:10.1146/annurev-physiol-012110-142250.
The 18 glycosyl hydrolase family of chitinases is an ancient gene family that is widely expressed from prokaryotes to eukaryotes. In mammals, despite the absence of endogenous chitin, a number of chitinases and chitinase-like proteins (C/CLPs) have been identified. However, their roles have only recently begun to be elucidated. Acidic mammalian chitinase (AMCase) inhibits chitin-induced innate inflammation; augments chitin-free, allergen-induced Th2 inflammation; and mediates effector functions of IL-13. The CLPs BRP-39/YKL-40 (also termed chitinase 3-like 1) inhibit oxidant-induced lung injury, augments adaptive Th2 immunity, regulates apoptosis, stimulates alternative macrophage activation, and contributes to fibrosis and wound healing. In accord with these findings, levels of YKL-40 in the lung and serum are increased in asthma and other inflammatory and remodeling disorders and often correlate with disease severity. Our understanding of the roles of C/CLPs in inflammation, tissue remodeling, and tissue injury in health and disease is reviewed below.
PMCID: PMC3864643  PMID: 21054166
asthma; fibrosis; BRP-39/YKL-40; AMCase; chitotriosidase
17.  Chitinase 3-like-1 Promotes Streptococcus pneumoniae Killing and Augments Host Tolerance to Lung Antibacterial Responses 
Cell host & microbe  2012;12(1):34-46.
Host antibacterial responses include mechanisms that kill bacteria, but also those that protect or tolerize the host to potentially damaging antibacterial effects. We determined that Chitinase 3-like-1 (Chi3l1), a conserved prototypic chitinase-like protein, is induced by Streptococcus pneumoniae and plays central roles in promoting bacterial clearance and mediating host tolerance. S. pneumoniae-infected Chi3l1 null mice exhibit exaggerated lung injury, inflammation and hemorrhage, more frequent bacterial dissemination, decreased bacterial clearance, and enhanced mortality compared to controls. Chi3l1 augments macrophage bacterial killing by inhibiting caspase-1-dependent macrophage pyroptosis and augments host tolerance by controlling inflammasome activation, ATP accumulation, expression of ATP receptor P2×7R, and production of thymic stromal lymphopoietin and type 1, type 2, and type 17 cytokines. These data demonstrate that Chi3l1 is induced during infection, where it promotes bacterial clearance while simultaneously augmenting host tolerance, and that these roles likely contributed to the retention of Chi3l1 over species and evolutionary time.
PMCID: PMC3613130  PMID: 22817986
18.  IL-18 Induces Emphysema and Airway and Vascular Remodeling via IFN-γ, IL-17A, and IL-13 
Rationale: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is characterized by chronic inflammation, alveolar destruction, and airway and vascular remodeling. However, the mechanisms that lead to these diverse alterations have not been defined.
Objectives: We hypothesized that IL-18 plays a central role in the pathogenesis of these lesions.
Methods: We generated and characterized lung-specific, inducible IL-18 transgenic mice.
Measurements and Main Results: Here we demonstrate that the expression of IL-18 in the mature murine lung induces inflammation that is associated with the accumulation of CD4+, CD8+, CD19+, and NK1.1+ cells; emphysema; mucus metaplasia; airway fibrosis; vascular remodeling; and right ventricle cardiac hypertrophy. We also demonstrate that IL-18 induces type 1, type 2, and type 17 cytokines with IFN-γ–inhibiting macrophage, lymphocyte, and eosinophil accumulation while stimulating alveolar destruction and genes associated with cell cytotoxicity and IL-13 and IL-17A inducing mucus metaplasia, airway fibrosis, and vascular remodeling. We also highlight interactions between these responses with IL-18 inducing IL-13 via an IL-17A–dependent mechanism and the type 1 and type17/type 2 responses counterregulating each another.
Conclusions: These studies define the spectrum of inflammatory, parenchymal, airway, and vascular alterations that are induced by pulmonary IL-18; highlight the similarities between these responses and the lesions in COPD; and define the selective roles that type 1, type 2, and type 17 responses play in the generation of IL-18–induced pathologies.
PMCID: PMC3373071  PMID: 22383501
IL-18; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; airway fibrosis; mucus metaplasia; vascular remodeling
19.  Role of Semaphorin 7a signaling in TGF-β1 induced lung fibrosis and scleroderma-related interstitial lung disease 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2011;63(8):2484-2494.
Semaphorin (Sema) 7a regulates TGF- β1 induced fibrosis. Using a murine model of pulmonary fibrosis in which an inducible, bioactive form of the human TGF- β1 gene is overexpressed in the lung, we tested the hypothesis that Sema-7a exerts its pro-fibrotic effects in part by promoting the tissue accumulation of CD45+ fibrocytes.
Fibrosis and fibrocytes were evaluated in TGF- β1 transgenic mice in which the Sema-7a locus had been disrupted. The effect of replacement or deletion of Sema-7a on bone marrow derived cells was ascertained using bone marrow transplantation. The role of the Sema-7a receptor β1 integrin was assessed using neutralizing antibodies. The applicability of these findings to TGF-β1-driven fibrosis in humans was examined in patients with scleroderma-related interstitial lung disease.
The appearance of fibrocytes in the lungs in TGF- β1 transgenic mice requires Sema-7a. Replacement of Sema-7a in bone marrow derived cells restores lung fibrosis and fibrocytes. Immunoneutralization of β1 integrin reduces pulmonary fibrocytes and fibrosis. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells from patients with scleroderma-related interstitial lung disease show increased mRNA for Sema-7a and the β1 integrin, with Sema-7a located on collagen producing fibrocytes and CD19+ lymphocytes. Peripheral blood fibrocyte outgrowth is enhanced in these patients. Stimulation of normal human peripheral blood mononuclear cells with recombinant Sema-7a enhances fibrocyte differentiation; these effects are attenuated by β1 integrin neutralization.
Interventions that reduce Sema-7a expression or prevent the Sema-7a - β1 integrin interaction may be ameliorative in TGF- β1-driven or fibrocyte-associated autoimmune fibroses.
PMCID: PMC3651701  PMID: 21484765
20.  Chitinase-like Proteins in Lung Injury, Repair, and Metastasis 
This report explains how our studies of asthma and Th2 inflammation led us to investigate the roles of chitinase-like proteins (CLPs) in lung injury and repair and puts forth an overall hypothesis that can explain the roles that these moieties play in biology and a hypothesis regarding the ways that dysregulated CLP expression may contribute to the pathogenesis of a variety of diseases. We test this hypothesis by assessing the contributions of the CLP breast regression protein (BRP)-39 in the pathogenesis of malignant melanoma metastasis to the lung.
PMCID: PMC3359113  PMID: 22550243
BRP-39/YKL-40; inflammation; injury; repair; metastasis
21.  Increased Hyperoxia-Induced Lung Injury in Nitric Oxide Synthase 2 Null Mice Is Mediated via Angiopoietin 2 
Supplemental oxygen is frequently prescribed. However, prolonged exposure to high concentrations of oxygen causes hyperoxic acute lung injury (HALI), which manifests as acute respiratory distress syndrome in adults and leads to bronchopulmonary dysplasia in newborns (NBs). Nitric oxide (NO), NO synthases (NOSs), and angiopoietin (Ang) 2 have been implicated in the pathogenesis of HALI. However, the mechanisms of the contributions of NOS/NO and the relationship(s) between NOS/NO and Ang2 have not been addressed. In addition, the relevance of these moieties in adults and NBs has not been evaluated. To address these issues, we compared the responses in hyperoxia of wild-type (NOS [+/+]) and NOS null (−/−) young adult and NB mice. When compared with NOS2+/+ adult controls, NOS2−/− animals manifest exaggerated alveolar–capillary protein leak and premature death. These responses were associated with enhanced levels of structural cell death, enhanced expression of proapoptotic regulatory proteins, and Ang2. Importantly, silencing RNA knockdown of Ang2 decreased the levels of cell death and the expression of proapoptotic mediators. These effects were at least partially NOS2 specific, and were development dependent, because survival was similar in adult NOS3+/+ and NOS3−/− mice and NB NOS2+/+ and NOS2−/− mice, respectively. These studies demonstrate that NOS2 plays an important protective role in HALI in adult animals. They also demonstrate that this response is mediated, at least in part, by the ability of NOS2 to inhibit hyperoxia-induced Ang2 production and thereby decrease Ang2-induced tissue injury.
PMCID: PMC3359903  PMID: 22227562
cytokines; hyperoxia; lung
22.  Studies of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor in Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a potent stimulator of vascular angiogenesis, permeability, and remodeling that also plays important roles in wound healing and tissue cytoprotection. To begin to define the roles of VEGF in diseases like asthma and COPD, we characterized the effects of lung-targeted transgenic VEGF165 and defined the innate immune pathways that regulate VEGF tissue responses. The former studies demonstrated that VEGF plays an important role in Th2 inflammation because, in addition to stimulating angiogenesis and edema, VEGF induced eosinophilic inflammation, mucus metaplasia, subepithelial fibrosis, myocyte hyperplasia, dendritic cell activation, and airways hyperresponsiveness via IL-13–dependent and -independent mechanisms. VEGF was also produced at sites of aeroallergen-induced Th2 inflammation, and VEGF receptor blockade ameliorated adaptive Th2 inflammation and Th2 cytokine elaboration. The latter studies demonstrated that activation of the RIG-like helicase (RLH) innate immune pathway using viral pathogen–associated molecular patterns such as Poly(I:C) or viruses ameliorated VEGF-induced tissue responses. In accord with these findings, Poly(I:C)-induced RLH activation also abrogated aeroallergen-induced Th2 inflammation. When viewed in combination, these studies suggest that VEGF excess can contribute to the pathogenesis of Th2 inflammatory disorders such as asthma and that abrogation of VEGF signaling via RLH activation can contribute to the pathogenesis of viral disorders such as virus-induced COPD exacerbations. They also suggest that RLH activation may be a useful therapeutic strategy in asthma and related disorders.
PMCID: PMC3359071  PMID: 22052929
asthma; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; virus; RIG-like helicase; mitochondrial antiviral signaling molecule
23.  Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) induces remodeling and enhances TH2-mediated sensitization and inflammation in the lung 
Nature medicine  2004;10(10):1095-1103.
Exaggerated levels of VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) are present in persons with asthma, but the role(s) of VEGF in normal and asthmatic lungs has not been defined. We generated lung-targeted VEGF165 transgenic mice and evaluated the role of VEGF in T-helper type 2 cell (TH2)-mediated inflammation. In these mice, VEGF induced, through IL-13–dependent and –independent pathways, an asthma-like phenotype with inflammation, parenchymal and vascular remodeling, edema, mucus metaplasia, myocyte hyperplasia and airway hyper-responsiveness. VEGF also enhanced respiratory antigen sensitization and TH2 inflammation and increased the number of activated DC2 dendritic cells. In antigen-induced inflammation, VEGF was produced by epithelial cells and preferentially by TH2 versus TH1 cells. In this setting, it had a critical role in TH2 inflammation, cytokine production and physiologic dysregulation. Thus, VEGF is a mediator of vascular and extravascular remodeling and inflammation that enhances antigen sensitization and is crucial in adaptive TH2 inflammation. VEGF regulation may be therapeutic in asthma and other TH2 disorders.
PMCID: PMC3434232  PMID: 15378055
24.  Role of Breast Regression Protein–39 in the Pathogenesis of Cigarette Smoke–Induced Inflammation and Emphysema 
The exaggerated expression of chitinase-like protein YKL-40, the human homologue of breast regression protein–39 (BRP-39), was reported in a number of diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, the in vivo roles of YKL-40 in normal physiology or in the pathogenesis of specific diseases such as COPD remain poorly understood. We hypothesized that BRP-39/YKL-40 plays an important role in the pathogenesis of cigarette smoke (CS)–induced emphysema. To test this hypothesis, 10-week-old wild-type and BRP-39 null mutant mice (BRP-39−/−) were exposed to room air (RA) and CS for up to 10 months. The expression of BRP-39 was significantly induced in macrophages, airway epithelial cells, and alveolar Type II cells in the lungs of CS-exposed mice compared with RA-exposed mice, at least in part via an IL-18 signaling–dependent pathway. The null mutation of BRP-39 significantly reduced CS-induced bronchoalveolar lavage and tissue inflammation. However, CS-induced epithelial cell apoptosis and alveolar destruction were further enhanced in the absence of BRP-39. Consistent with these findings in mice, the tissue expression of YKL-40 was significantly increased in the lungs of current smokers compared with the lungs of ex-smokers or nonsmokers. In addition, serum concentrations of YKL-40 were significantly higher in smokers with COPD than in nonsmokers or smokers without COPD. These studies demonstrate a novel regulatory role of BRP-39/YKL-40 in CS-induced inflammation and emphysematous destruction. These studies also underscore that maintaining physiologic concentrations of YKL-40 in the lung is therapeutically important in preventing excessive inflammatory responses or emphysematous alveolar destruction.
PMCID: PMC3135840  PMID: 20656949
YKL-40/BRP-39; COPD; emphysema; cigarette smoke
25.  RIG-like Helicase Innate Immunity Inhibits Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Tissue Responses via a Type I IFN–dependent Mechanism 
Rationale: Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) regulates vascular, inflammatory, remodeling, and cell death responses. It plays a critical role in normal pulmonary physiology, and VEGF excess and deficiency have been implicated in the pathogenesis of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, respectively. Although viruses are an important cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbations and innate responses play an important role in these exacerbations, the effects of antiviral responses on VEGF homeostasis have not been evaluated.
Objectives: We hypothesized that antiviral innate immunity regulates VEGF tissue responses.
Methods: We compared the effects of transgenic VEGF165 in mice treated with viral pathogen–associated molecular pattern polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid [poly(I:C)], mice treated with live virus, and control mice.
Measurements and Main Results: Transgenic VEGF stimulated angiogenesis, edema, inflammation, and mucin accumulation. Each of these was abrogated by poly(I:C). These inhibitory effects were dose dependent, noted when poly(I:C) was administered before and after transgene activation, and mediated by a Toll-like receptor-3–independent and RIG-like helicase (RLH)– and type I IFN receptor–dependent pathway. VEGF stimulated the expression of VEGF receptor-1 and poly(I:C) inhibited this stimulation. Poly(I:C) also inhibited the ability of VEGF to activate extracellular signal–regulated kinase-1, Akt, focal adhesion kinase, and endothelial nitric oxide synthase, and aeroallergen-induced adaptive helper T-cell type 2 inflammation. Influenza and respiratory syncytial virus also inhibited VEGF-induced angiogenesis.
Conclusions: These studies demonstrate that poly(I:C) and respiratory viruses inhibit VEGF-induced tissue responses and adaptive helper T-cell type 2 inflammation and highlight the importance of a RLH- and type I IFN receptor–dependent pathway(s) in these regulatory events. They define a novel link between VEGF and antiviral and RLH innate immune responses and a novel pathway that regulates pulmonary VEGF activity.
PMCID: PMC3114061  PMID: 21278304
RIG-like helicase; mitochondrial antiviral signaling molecule; influenza virus; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

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