The formation of highly branched epithelial structures is critical for the development of many essential organs, including lung, liver, pancreas, kidney and mammary glands. Elongation and branching of these structures require precise control of complex morphogenetic processes that are dependent upon coordinate regulation of cell shape, apical-basal polarity, proliferation, migration, and interactions among multiple cell types. Herein, we demonstrate that temporal-spatial regulation of epithelial cell polarity by the small GTPase, CDC42, is essential for branching morphogenesis of the developing lung. Epithelial cell-specific deletion of CDC42 in fetal mice disrupted epithelial cell polarity, the actin cytoskeleton, intercellular contacts, directional trafficking of proteins, proliferation and mitotic spindle orientation, impairing the organization and patterning of the developing respiratory epithelium and adjacent mesenchyme. Transition from a pseudostratified to a simple columnar epithelium was impaired, consistent with coordinate dysregulation of epithelial cell polarity, mitotic spindle orientation, and repositioning of mitotic cells within the epithelium during cell cycle progression. Expression of sonic hedgehog and its receptor, patched-1, was decreased, while fibroblast growth factor 10 expression in the mesenchyme was expanded, resulting in disruption of branching morphogenesis and bronchiolar smooth muscle formation in this model. CDC42 is required for spatial positioning of proliferating epithelial cells, as well as signaling interactions between the epithelium and mesenchyme and is, therefore, essential for formation and maintenance of the respiratory tract during morphogenesis of the fetal lung.
Mouse Development; Branching Morphogenesis; Rho GTPase; Targeted Deletion; Intercellular Junctions; Pulmonary Hypoplasia
Respiratory epithelial cells are derived from cell progenitors in the foregut endoderm that subsequently differentiate into the distinct cell types lining the conducting and alveolar regions of the lung. To identify transcriptional mechanisms regulating differentiation and maintenance of respiratory epithelial cells, we conditionally deleted Foxm1 transcription factor from the conducting airways of the developing mouse lung. Conditional deletion of Foxm1 from Clara cells, controlled by the Scgb1a1 promoter, dramatically altered airway structure and caused peribronchial fibrosis, resulting in airway hyperreactivity in adult mice. Deletion of Foxm1 inhibited proliferation of Clara cells and disrupted the normal patterning of epithelial cell differentiation in the bronchioles, causing squamous and goblet cell metaplasia, and the loss of Clara and ciliated cells. Surprisingly, conducting airways of Foxm1-deficient mice contained highly differentiated cuboidal type II epithelial cells that are normally restricted to the alveoli. Lineage tracing studies showed that the ectopic alveolar type II cells in Foxm1-deficient airways were derived from Clara cells. Deletion of Foxm1 inhibited Sox2 and Scgb1a1, both of which are critical for differentiation and function of Clara cells. In co-transfection experiments, Foxm1 directly bound to and induced transcriptional activity of Scgb1a1 and Sox2 promoters. Foxm1 is required for differentiation and maintenance of epithelial cells lining conducting airways.
Foxm1; Clara cells; airway epithelium; type II cells; Sox2; airway development
Many transcription factors that regulate lung morphogenesis during development are reactivated to mediate repairs of the injured adult lung. We hypothesized that CCAAT/enhancer binding protein–α (C/EBPα), a transcription factor critical for perinatal lung maturation, regulates genes required for the normal repair of the bronchiolar epithelium after injury. Transgenic CebpαΔ/Δ mice, in which Cebpa was conditionally deleted from Clara cells and Type II cells after birth, were used in this study. Airway injury was induced in mice by the intraperitoneal administration of naphthalene to ablate bronchiolar epithelial cells. Although the deletion of C/EBPα did not influence lung structure and function under unstressed conditions, C/EBPα was required for the normal repair of terminal bronchiolar epithelium after naphthalene injury. To identify cellular processes that are influenced by C/EBPα during repair, mRNA microarray was performed on terminal bronchiolar epithelial cells isolated by laser-capture microdissection. Normal repair of the terminal bronchiolar epithelium was highly associated with the mRNAs regulating antiprotease activities, and their induction required C/EBPα. The defective deposition of fibronectin in CebpαΔ/Δ mice was associated with increased protease activity and delayed differentiation of FoxJ1-expressing ciliated cells. The fibronectin and ciliated cells were restored by the intratracheal treatment of CebpαΔ/Δ mice with the serine protease inhibitor. In conclusion, C/EBPα regulates the expression of serine protease inhibitors that are required for the normal increase of fibronectin and the restoration of ciliated cells after injury. Treatment with serine protease inhibitor may aid in the recovery of injured bronchiolar epithelial cells, and prevent common chronic lung diseases.
C/EBPα; antiprotease; Spink5; naphthalene; Scgb1a1
Thy-1 is a glycosylphosphytidylinositol-linked cell-surface glycoprotein present on a subset of lung fibroblasts, which plays an important role in postnatal alveolarization. In the present study, we define the role of Thy-1 in pulmonary lipofibroblast differentiation and in the regulation of lipid homeostasis via peroxisome proliferator–activated receptor–γ (PPARγ). Thy-1 was associated with interstitial cells containing lipid droplets in vivo. The transfection of Thy-1 into Thy-1 (−) fibroblasts increased triglyceride content, fatty-acid uptake, and the expression of the lipofibroblast marker adipocyte differentiation–related protein. Thy-1 (+) fibroblasts exhibited 2.4-fold higher PPARγ activity, and the inhibition or activation of PPARγ reduced and increased triglyceride content, respectively. Thy-1 (−) fibroblasts were not responsive to either of the PPARγ agonists ciglitazone or prostaglandin J2, supporting the importance of Thy-1 in signaling via PPARγ. Thy-1 (+) fibroblasts expressed significantly higher concentrations of fatty-acid transporter protein–3 mRNA, and demonstrated higher rates of fatty-acid uptake and increased triglyceride content. The inhibition of fatty-acid transporter protein function reduced Thy-1 (+) fibroblast lipid content. The expression of Thy-1 in C57BL/6 lung fibroblasts increased during the neonatal period, coinciding with the onset of alveolarization. Thy-1 promoted lipofibroblast differentiation via the expression of PPARγ, stimulated lipid accumulation via fatty-acid esterification, and enhanced the fatty-acid uptake mediated by fatty-acid transporter proteins. Thy-1 is important in the regulation of lipofibroblast differentiation in the developing lung.
Thy-1; lipofibroblast; PPARγ; lipid metabolism
Kruppel-like transcription factor 5 (Klf5) was detected in the developing and mature murine bladder urothelium. Herein we report a critical role of KLF5 in the formation and terminal differentiation of the urothelium. The ShhGfpCre transgene was used to delete the Klf5floxed alleles from bladder epithelial cells causing prenatal hydronephrosis, hydroureter, and vesicoureteric reflux. The bladder urothelium failed to stratify and did not express terminal differentiation markers characteristic of basal, intermediate, and umbrella cells including keratins 20, 14, and 5, and the uroplakins. The effects of Klf5 deletion were unique to the developing bladder epithelium since maturation of the epithelium comprising the bladder neck and urethra were unaffected by the lack of KLF5. mRNA analysis identified reductions in Pparγ, Grhl3, Elf3, and Ovol1expression in Klf5 deficient fetal bladders supporting their participation in a transcriptional network regulating bladder urothelial differentiation. KLF5 regulated expression of the mGrhl3 promoter in transient transfection assays. The absence of urothelial Klf5 altered epithelial-mesenchymal signaling leading to the formation of an ectopic alpha smooth muscle actin positive layer of cells subjacent to the epithelium and a thinner detrusor muscle that was not attributable to disruption of SHH signaling, a known mediator of detrusor morphogenesis. Deletion of Klf5 from the developing bladder urothelium blocked epithelial cell differentiation, impaired bladder morphogenesis and function causing hydroureter and hydronephrosis at birth.
bladder; vesicoureteral reflux; KLF5; GRHL3; urothelium; micro-CT
The timing of lung maturation is controlled precisely by complex genetic and cellular programs. Lung immaturity following preterm birth frequently results in Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS) and Broncho-Pulmonary Dysplasia (BPD), which are leading causes of mortality and morbidity in preterm infants. Mechanisms synchronizing gestational length and lung maturation remain to be elucidated. In this study, we designed a genome-wide mRNA expression time-course study from E15.5 to Postnatal Day 0 (PN0) using lung RNAs from C57BL/6J (B6) and A/J mice that differ in gestational length by ∼30 hr (B6
Rationale: Airway mucous cell metaplasia and chronic inflammation are pathophysiological features that influence morbidity and mortality associated with asthma and other chronic pulmonary disorders. Elucidation of the molecular mechanisms regulating mucous metaplasia and hypersecretion provides the scientific basis for diagnostic and therapeutic opportunities to improve the care of chronic pulmonary diseases.
Objectives: To determine the role of the airway epithelial–specific transcription factor NK2 homeobox 1 (NKX2-1, also known as thyroid transcription factor-1 [TTF-1]) in mucous cell metaplasia and lung inflammation.
Methods: Expression of NKX2-1 in airway epithelial cells from patients with asthma was analyzed. NKX2-1+/− gene targeted or transgenic mice expressing NKX2-1 in conducting airway epithelial cells were sensitized to the aeroallergen ovalbumin. In vitro studies were used to identify mechanisms by which NKX2-1 regulates mucous cell metaplasia and inflammation.
Measurements and Main Results: NKX2-1 was suppressed in airway epithelial cells from patients with asthma. Reduced expression of NKX2-1 in heterozygous NKX2-1+/− gene targeted mice increased mucous metaplasia in the small airways after pulmonary sensitization to ovalbumin. Conversely, mucous cell metaplasia induced by aeroallergen was inhibited by expression of NKX2-1 in the respiratory epithelium in vivo. Genome-wide mRNA analysis of lung tissue from ovalbumin-treated mice demonstrated that NKX2-1 inhibited mRNAs associated with mucous metaplasia and Th2-regulated inflammation, including Spdef, Ccl17, and Il13. In vitro, NKX2-1 inhibited SPDEF, a critical regulator of airway mucous cell metaplasia, and the Th2 chemokine CCL26.
Conclusions: The present data demonstrate a novel function for NKX2-1 in a gene network regulating mucous cell metaplasia and allergic inflammation in the respiratory epithelium.
asthma; goblet cell; respiratory epithelium; NK2 homeobox 1
Recent advances in cellular, molecular, and developmental biology have revolutionized our concepts regarding the process of organogenesis that have important implications for our understanding of both lung formation and pulmonary disease pathogenesis. Pulmonary investigators have long debated whether developmental processes are recapitulated during normal repair of the lung or in the setting of chronic pulmonary diseases. Although the cellular events involved in lung morphogenesis and those causing pulmonary disease are likely to include processes that are distinct, there is increasing evidence that the pathogenesis of many lung disorders involves the same genetic machinery that regulates cell growth, specification, and differentiation during normal lung development.
lung; morphogenesis; transcription; respiratory
The fetus is thought to play a central role in the onset of labor. Pulmonary surfactant protein (SP)-A, secreted by the maturing fetal lung, has been implicated in the mechanisms initiating parturition in mice. The present study was conducted to determine whether amniotic fluid concentrations of SP-A and SP-B change during human parturition.
Amniotic fluid SP-A and SP-B concentrations were measured with sensitive and specific ELISA in the following groups of pregnant women: 1) mid-trimester of pregnancy between 15th and 18th weeks of gestation (n=29); 2) term pregnancy not in labor (n=28); and 3) term pregnancy in spontaneous labor (n=26). Non-parametric statistics were used for analysis.
SP-A was detected in all amniotic fluid samples. SP-B was detected in 24.1% (7/29) of mid-trimester samples and in all samples at term. The median amniotic fluid concentration of SP-A and SP-B were significantly higher in women at term than in women in the mid-trimester (SP-A term no labor: median 5.6 μg/ml, range 2.2–15.2 μg/ml vs. mid-trimester: median 1.64 μg/ml, range 0.1–4.7 μg/ml; and SP-B term no labor: median 0.54 μg/ml, range 0.17–1.99 μg/ml vs. mid-trimester: median 0 μg/ml, range 0–0.35 μg/ml; both p<0.001). The median amniotic fluid SP-A concentration in women at term in labor was significantly lower than that in women at term not in labor (term in labor: median 2.7 μg/ml, range 1.2–10.1 μg/ml vs. term no labor: median 5.6 μg/ml, range 2.2–15.2 μg/ml; p<0.001). There was no significant difference in the median amniotic fluid SP-B concentrations between women in labor and those not in labor (term in labor: median 0.47 μg/ml range 0.04–1.32 μg/ml vs. term no labor: median 0.54 μg/ml range 0.17–1.99 μg/ml; p=0.2).
The amniotic fluid concentration of surfactant protein-A decreases in spontaneous human parturition at term.
Surfactant protein; SP-A; SP-B; amniotic fluid; term; labor; parturition
Members of the Krüppel-like family of transcription factors regulate diverse developmental processes in various organs. Previously, we have demonstrated the role of Klf4 in the mouse ocular surface. Herein, we determined the role of the structurally related Klf5, using Klf5-conditional null (Klf5CN) mice derived by mating Klf5-LoxP and Le-Cre mice. Klf5 mRNA was detected as early as embryonic day 12 (E12) in the cornea, conjunctiva and eyelids, wherein its expression increased during development. Though the embryonic eye morphogenesis was unaltered in the Klf5CN mice, postnatal maturation was defective, resulting in smaller eyes with swollen eyelids that failed to separate properly. Klf5CN palpebral epidermis was hyperplastic with 7-9 layers of keratinocytes, compared with 2-3 in the wild type (WT). Klf5CN eyelid hair follicles and sebaceous glands were significantly enlarged, and the meibomian glands malformed. Klf5CN lacrimal glands displayed increased vasculature and large number of infiltrating cells. Klf5CN corneas were translucent, thicker with defective epithelial basement membrane and hypercellular stroma. Klf5CN conjunctiva lacked goblet cells, demonstrating that Klf5 is required for conjunctival goblet cell development. The number of Ki67-positive mitotic cells was more than doubled, consistent with the increased number of Klf5CN ocular surface epithelial cells. Co-ablation of Klf4 and Klf5 resulted in a more severe ocular surface phenotype compared with Klf4CN or Klf5CN, demonstrating that Klf4 and Klf5 share few if any, redundant functions. Thus, Klf5CN mice provide a useful model for investigating ocular surface pathologies involving meibomian gland dysfunction, blepharitis, corneal or conjunctival defects.
Klf5; cornea; conjunctiva; meibomian glands; lacrimal glands; eyelids; goblet cells
Endometrial cancer (EMC) is the most common gynecological malignancy. The etiology and the cell types that are conducive to EMC are not completely understood, provoking further studies. Our objective was to determine whether deletion of Pten specifically in the uterine stroma and myometrium induces cancer or manifests different phenotypes.
PtenAmhr2(d/d) mice with conditional deletion of Pten in the mouse uterine stroma and myometrium, but not in the epithelium, were generated by mating floxed Pten mice and anti-Mullerian hormone type 2 receptor (Amhr2)-Cre mice. The phenotypes were compared between Ptenf/f and PtenAmhr2(d/d) uteri.
We show that conditional deletion of Pten in the mouse uterine stroma and myometrium, but not in the epithelium, fails to generate EMC even at the age of 5 months. Surprisingly Pten deletion by Amhr2-Cre transformed a large number of myometrial cells into adipocytes with lipid accumulation, possibly a result of increased levels of SREBP1 and PPARγ which regulate adipose differentiation.
These results provide evidence that deletion of Pten specifically in the stroma and myometrium does not result in EMC in female mice examined up to 5 months of age but alters the myocytes to adipocytes and mimics histologic similarities with lipoleiomyomas in humans, raising the possibility of using this mouse model to further explore the cause of the disease.
Sox2, a transcription factor critical for the maintenance of embryonic stem cells and induction of pluripotent stem cells, is expressed exclusively in the conducting airway epithelium of the lung, where it is required for differentiation of nonciliated, goblet, and ciliated cells. To determine the role of Sox2 in respiratory epithelial cells, Sox2 was selectively and conditionally expressed in nonciliated airway epithelial cells and in alveolar type II cells in the adult mouse. Sox2 induced epithelial cell proliferation within 3 days of expression. Epithelial cell proliferation was associated with increased Ki-67 and cyclin D1 staining. Expression of cell cycle genes, including FoxM1, Ccna2 (Cyclin A2), Ccnb2 (Cyclin B2), and Ccnd1 (Cyclin D1), was increased. Consistent with a role in cell proliferation, Sox2 activated the transcription of FoxM1 in vitro. In alveoli, Sox2 caused hyperplasia and ectopic differentiation of epithelial cells to those with morphologic and molecular characteristics of conducting airway epithelium. Sox2 induced the expression of conducting airway epithelial specific genes, including Scgb1a1, Foxj1, Tubb3, and Cyp2f2. Although prolonged expression of Sox2 caused cell proliferation and epithelial hyperplasia, Sox2 did not induce pulmonary tumors. Sox2 induces proliferation of respiratory epithelial cells and, subsequently, partially reprograms alveolar epithelial cells into cells with characteristics of the conducting airways.
lung; transcription; progenitor cell; differentiation; tumorigenesis
In April 2010, a NIH workshop was convened to discuss the current state of understanding of lung cell plasticity, including the responses of epithelial cells to injury, with the objectives of summarizing what is known, what the field needs to know, and how to get there. The proximal stimulus for this workshop is the body of recent evidence suggesting that plasticity is a prominent but incompletely characterized property of lung epithelial cells, and that a focus on understanding this aspect of epithelial cell biology in particular, may be an important window into disease pathobiology and pathogenesis. In addition to their many vital functions in maintaining tissue homeostasis, epithelial cells have emerged as both a central target of disease initiation and an active contributor to disease progression, making a workshop to investigate the role of cell plasticity in lung injury and repair timely. The workshop was organized around four major themes: lung epithelial cell plasticity, signaling control of plasticity, fibroblast plasticity and crosstalk, and translation to human disease. Although this breakdown was recognized to be somewhat artificial, it was felt that this approach would promote cross-fertilization among groups that ordinarily do not communicate and lend itself to the generation of new approaches. The summary reports of individual group discussions below are followed by consensus priorities and recommendations of the workshop participants.
epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT); idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis; cell lineage
Rationale: The respiratory epithelium has a remarkable capacity to respond to acute injury. In contrast, repeated epithelial injury is often associated with abnormal repair, inflammation, and fibrosis. There is increasing evidence that nonciliated epithelial cells play important roles in the repair of the bronchiolar epithelium after acute injury. Cellular processes underlying the repair and remodeling of the lung after chronic epithelial injury are poorly understood.
Objectives: To identify cell processes mediating epithelial regeneration and remodeling after acute and chronic Clara cell depletion.
Methods: A transgenic mouse model was generated to conditionally express diphtheria toxin A to ablate Clara cells in the adult lung. Epithelial regeneration and peribronchiolar fibrosis were assessed after acute and chronic Clara cell depletion.
Measurements and Main Results: Acute Clara cell ablation caused squamous metaplasia of ciliated cells and induced proliferation of residual progenitor cells. Ciliated cells in the bronchioles and pro–surfactant protein C–expressing cells in the bronchiolar alveolar duct junctions did not proliferate. Epithelial cell proliferation occurred at multiple sites along the airways and was not selectively associated with regions around neuroepithelial bodies. Chronic Clara cell depletion resulted in ineffective repair and caused peribronchiolar fibrosis.
Conclusions: Colocalization of proliferation and cell type–specific markers demonstrate that Clara cells are critical airway progenitor cells. Continuous depletion of Clara cells resulted in persistent squamous metaplasia, lack of normal reepithelialization, and peribronchiolar fibrosis. Induction of proliferation in subepithelial fibroblasts supports the concept that chronic epithelial depletion caused peribronchiolar fibrosis.
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome; squamous metaplasia; diphtheria toxin; progenitor cells
Asthma is a major public health burden worldwide. Studies from our group and others have demonstrated that SERPINB3 and B4 are induced in asthmatics; however their mechanistic role in asthma has yet to be determined.
To evaluate the role of Serpin3a, the murine homolog of human SERPINB3 and B4, in asthma.
We studied wild type Balb/c and Serpinb3a null mice in house dust mite or IL-13 induced asthma models and evaluated airway hyperresponsiveness, inflammation, and goblet cell hyperplasia.
Airway hyperresponsiveness and goblet cell hyperplasia were markedly attenuated in the Serpinb3a null mice compared to the wild type mice following allergen challenge, with minimal effects on inflammation. Expression of SPDEF, a transcription factor that mediates goblet cell hyperplasia, was decreased in the absence of Serpinb3a. IL-13 treated Serpinb3a null mice showed attenuated AHR, inflammation, and mucus production.
Excessive mucus production and mucus plugging are key pathologic features of asthma, yet the mechanisms responsible for mucus production are not well understood. Our data reveal a novel non-redundant role for Serpinb3a in mediating mucus production through regulation of SPDEF expression. This pathway may be used to effectively target mucus hypersecretion.
goblet cells; SPDEF; IL-13; hyperplasia
The many challenges associated with lung transplantation provide a strong rationale for the development of cell- and tissue-based therapies for patients with respiratory failure caused by the loss of lung tissue that is associated with chronic pulmonary disease, injury, or resection. In this issue of the JCI, Chapman et al. take an important step forward in the development of regenerative medicine for the treatment of lung disease by identifying a novel integrin α6β4–expressing alveolar epithelial cell that serves as a multipotent progenitor during repair of the severely injured lung.
CD8+ T-cell-mediated pulmonary immunopathology in respiratory virus infection is mediated in large part by antigen-specific TNF-α expression by antiviral effector T cells, which results in epithelial chemokine expression and inflammatory infiltration of the lung. To further define the signaling events leading to lung epithelial chemokine production in response to CD8+ T-cell antigen recognition, we expressed the adenoviral 14.7K protein, a putative inhibitor of TNF-α signaling, in the distal lung epithelium, and analyzed the functional consequences. Distal airway epithelial expression of 14.7K resulted in a significant reduction in lung injury resulting from severe influenza pneumonia. In vitro analysis demonstrated a significant reduction in the expression of an important mediator of injury, CCL2, in response to CD8+ T-cell recognition, or to TNF-α. The inhibitory effect of 14.7K on CCL2 expression resulted from attenuation of NF-κB activity, which was independent of Iκ-Bα degradation or nuclear translocation of the p65 subunit. Furthermore, epithelial 14.7K expression inhibited serine phosphorylation of Akt, GSK-3β, and the p65 subunit of NF-κB, as well as recruitment of NF-κB for DNA binding in vivo. These results provide insight into the mechanism of 14.7K inhibition of NF-κB activity, as well as further elucidate the mechanisms involved in the induction of T-cell-mediated immunopathology in respiratory virus infection.
Foxm1 is a member of the Forkhead Box (Fox) family of transcription factors. Foxm1 (previously called Foxm1b, HFH-11B, Trident, Win, or MPP2) is expressed in multiple cell types and plays important roles in cellular proliferation, differentiation and tumorigenesis. Genetic deletion of Foxm1 from mouse respiratory epithelium during initial stages of lung development inhibits lung maturation and causes respiratory failure after birth. However, the role of Foxm1 during postnatal lung morphogenesis remains unknown. In the present study, Foxm1 expression was detected in epithelial cells of conducting and peripheral airways and changing dynamically with lung maturation. To discern the biological role of Foxm1 in the prenatal and postnatal lung, a novel transgenic mouse line that expresses a constitutively active form of FoxM1 (FoxM1 N-terminal deletion mutant or FoxM1-ΔN) under the control of lung epithelial-specific SPC promoter was produced. Expression of the FoxM1-ΔN transgene during embryogenesis caused epithelial hyperplasia, inhibited lung sacculation and expression of the type II epithelial marker, pro-SPC. Expression of FoxM1-ΔN mutant during the postnatal period did not influence alveologenesis but caused focal airway hyperplasia and increased proliferation of Clara cells. Likewise, expression of FoxM1-ΔN mutant in conducting airways with Scgb1a1 promoter was sufficient to induce Clara cell hyperplasia. Furthermore, FoxM1-ΔN cooperated with activated K-Ras to induce lung tumor growth in vivo. Increased activity of Foxm1 altered lung sacculation, induced proliferation in the respiratory epithelium and accelerated lung tumor growth, indicating that precise regulation of Foxm1 is critical for normal lung morphogenesis and development of lung cancer.