Mechanisms that regulate regional epithelial cell diversity and pathologic remodeling in airways are poorly understood. We hypothesized that regional differences in cell composition and injury-related tissue remodeling result from the type and composition of local progenitors. We used surface markers and the spatial expression pattern of an SFTPC-GFP transgene to subset epithelial progenitors by airway region. Green fluorescent protein (GFP) expression ranged from undetectable to high in a proximal-to-distal gradient. GFPhi cells were subdivided by CD24 staining into alveolar (CD24neg) and conducting airway (CD24low) populations. This allowed for the segregation of three types of progenitors displaying distinct clonal behavior in vitro. GFPneg and GFPlow progenitors both yielded lumen containing colonies but displayed transcriptomes reflective of pseudostratified and distal conducting airways, respectively. CD24lowGFPhi progenitors were present in an overlapping distribution with GFPlow progenitors in distal airways, yet expressed lower levels of Sox2 and expanded in culture to yield undifferentiated self-renewing progeny. Colony-forming ability was reduced for each progenitor cell type after in vivo bleomycin exposure, but only CD24lowGFPhi progenitors showed robust expansion during tissue remodeling. These data reveal intrinsic differences in the properties of regional progenitors and suggest that their unique responses to tissue damage drive local tissue remodeling. Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest is found at the end of this article.
Regional; Progenitor; Epithelium; Lung; Bleomycin
Proliferation and differentiation of the pulmonary epithelium after injury is a critical process in the defense against the external environment. Defects in this response can result in airway remodeling, such as mucus cell metaplasia (MCM), commonly seen in patients with chronic lung disease. We have previously shown that amphiregulin (AREG), a ligand to the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), is induced during the repair/differentiation process elicited by naphthalene-induced lung injury. Thus, we hypothesized that AREG signaling plays an important role in epithelial proliferation and differentiation of the repairing airway. Mice deficient in AREG and lung epithelial EGFR were used to define roles for AREG-dependent EGFR signaling in airway repair and remodeling. We show that AREG and epithelial EGFR expression is dispensable to pulmonary epithelial repair after naphthalene-induced lung injury, but regulates secretory cell differentiation to a mucus-producing phenotype. We show that the pulmonary epithelium is the source of AREG, suggesting that naphthalene-induced MCM is mediated through an autocrine signaling mechanism. However, induction of MCM resulting from allergen exposure was independent of AREG. Our data demonstrate that AREG-dependent EGFR signaling in airway epithelial cells contributes to MCM in naphthalene-induced lung injury. We conclude that AREG may represent a determinant of nonallergic chronic lung diseases complicated by MCM.
Clara cells; epidermal growth factor receptor; amphiregulin; mucus cell metaplasia
The regeneration of alveolar epithelial cells is a critical aspect of alveolar reorganization after lung injury. Although alveolar Type II (AT2) cells have been described as progenitor cells for alveolar epithelia, more remains to be understood about how their progenitor cell properties are regulated. A nuclear, chromatin-bound green fluorescence protein reporter (H2B-GFP) was driven from the murine surfactant protein–C (SPC) promoter to generate SPC H2B-GFP transgenic mice. The SPC H2B-GFP allele allowed the FACS-based enrichment and gene expression profiling of AT2 cells. Approximately 97% of AT2 cells were GFP-labeled on Postnatal Day 1, and the percentage of GFP-labeled AT2 cells decreased to approximately 63% at Postnatal Week 8. Isolated young adult SPC H2B-GFP+ cells displayed proliferation, differentiation, and self-renewal capacity in the presence of lung fibroblasts in a Matrigel-based three-dimensional culture system. Heterogeneity within the GFP+ population was revealed, because cells with distinct alveolar and bronchiolar gene expression arose in three-dimensional cultures. CD74, a surface marker highly enriched on GFP+ cells, was identified as a positive selection marker, providing 3-fold enrichment for AT2 cells. In vivo, GFP expression was induced within other epithelial cell types during maturation of the distal lung. The utility of the SPC H2B-GFP murine model for the identification of AT2 cells was greatest in early postnatal lungs and more limited with age, when some discordance between SPC and GFP expression was observed. In adult mice, this allele may allow for the enrichment and future characterization of other SPC-expressing alveolar and bronchiolar cells, including putative stem/progenitor cell populations.
alveolar Type II cells; SPC; epithelial; GFP; differentiation
Airspaces of the lung are lined by an epithelium whose cellular composition changes along the proximal-to-distal axis to meet local functional needs for mucociliary clearance, hydration, host defense, and gas exchange. Advances in cell isolation, in vitro culture techniques, and genetic manipulation of animal models have increased our understanding of the development and maintenance of the pulmonary epithelium. This review discusses basic cellular mechanisms that regulate establishment of the conducting airway and gas exchange systems as well as the functional maintenance of the epithelium during postnatal life.
Air spaces of the mammalian lung are lined by a specialized epithelium that is maintained by endogenous progenitor cells. Within bronchioles, the abundance and distribution of progenitor cells that contribute to epithelial homeostasis change as a function of maintenance versus repair. It is unclear whether functionally distinct progenitor pools or a single progenitor cell type maintain the epithelium and how the behavior is regulated in normal or disease states. To address these questions, we applied fractionation methods for the enrichment of distal airway progenitors. We show that bronchiolar progenitor cells can be subdivided into two functionally distinct populations that differ in their susceptibility to injury and contribution to repair. The proliferative capacity of these progenitors is confirmed in a novel in vitro assay. We show that both populations give rise to colonies with a similar dependence on stromal cell interactions and regulation by TGF-β. These findings provide additional insights into mechanisms of epithelial remodeling in the setting of chronic lung disease and offer hope that pharmacologic interventions may be developed to mitigate tissue remodeling.
bronchiolar stem cell; Clara; progenitor; fractionation; epithelium
Chronic lung diseases are marked by excessive inflammation and epithelial remodeling. Reduced Clara cell secretory function and corresponding decreases in the abundance of the major Clara cell secretory protein (CCSP) are characteristically seen in these disease states. We sought to define the impact of Clara cell and CCSP depletion on regulation of the lung inflammatory response. We used chemical and genetic mouse models of Clara cell and CCSP deficiency (CCSP−/−) coupled with Pseudomonas aeruginosa LPS elicited inflammation. Exposure of Clara cell–depleted or CCSP−/− mice to LPS resulted in augmented inflammation as assessed by polymorphonuclear leukocyte recruitment to the airspace. Gene expression analysis and pathway modeling of the CCSP−/− inflammatory response implicated increased TNF-α signaling. Consistent with this model was the demonstration of significantly elevated TNF-α in airway fluid of LPS-stimulated CCSP−/− mice compared with similarly exposed wild-type mice. Increased LPS-elicited TNF-α production was also observed in cultured lung macrophages from CCSP−/− mice compared with wild-type mice. We demonstrate that macrophages from Clara cell–depleted and CCSP−/− mice displayed increased Toll-like receptor 4 surface expression. Our results provide evidence that Clara cells can attenuate inflammation through regulation of macrophage behavior, and suggest that epithelial remodeling leading to reduced Clara cell secretory function is an important factor that increases the intensity of lung inflammation in chronic lung disease.
Clara cell; Clara cell secretory protein; inflammation; LPS; macrophage
Gas exchange in the lung occurs within alveoli, air-filled sacs composed of type 2 and type 1 epithelial cells (AEC2s and AEC1s), capillaries, and various resident mesenchymal cells. Here, we use a combination of in vivo clonal lineage analysis, different injury/repair systems, and in vitro culture of purified cell populations to obtain new information about the contribution of AEC2s to alveolar maintenance and repair. Genetic lineage-tracing experiments showed that surfactant protein C–positive (SFTPC-positive) AEC2s self renew and differentiate over about a year, consistent with the population containing long-term alveolar stem cells. Moreover, if many AEC2s were specifically ablated, high-resolution imaging of intact lungs showed that individual survivors undergo rapid clonal expansion and daughter cell dispersal. Individual lineage-labeled AEC2s placed into 3D culture gave rise to self-renewing “alveolospheres,” which contained both AEC2s and cells expressing multiple AEC1 markers, including HOPX, a new marker for AEC1s. Growth and differentiation of the alveolospheres occurred most readily when cocultured with primary PDGFRα+ lung stromal cells. This population included lipofibroblasts that normally reside close to AEC2s and may therefore contribute to a stem cell niche in the murine lung. Results suggest that a similar dynamic exists between AEC2s and mesenchymal cells in the human lung.
A comprehensive appreciation of mechanisms regulating epithelial maintenance and repair in pulmonary airways is fundamental to our understanding of tissue remodeling and dysfunction in chronic lung disease. This review provides an update on current concepts that have emerged from recent work in the field of airway epithelial repair and progenitor cell biology. New models to investigate the behavior of lung epithelial progenitor cells have provided fresh insights into their regulation and organization, and help to clarify their roles in normal maintenance and repair. Emerging technologies for the fractionation and culture of lung epithelial cells also provide opportunities to investigate the behavior and regulation of progenitor cell subsets in controlled systems. These advances hold promise for development of new strategies to modulate epithelial cell behavior and to effect tissue repair in the setting of lung disease.
progenitor; bronchiolar epithelium; stem cell; transit-amplifying cell
Signaling by Wnt/β-catenin regulates self-renewal of tissue stem cells in the gut and, when activated in the embryonic bronchiolar epithelium, leads to stem cell expansion. We have used transgenic and cell type–specific knockout strategies to determine roles for β-catenin–regulated gene expression in normal maintenance and repair of the bronchiolar epithelium. Analysis of TOPGal transgene activity detected β-catenin signaling in the steady-state and repairing bronchiolar epithelium. However, the broad distribution and phenotype of signaling cells precluded establishment of a clear role for β-catenin in the normal or repairing state. Necessity of β-catenin signaling was tested through Cre-mediated deletion of Catnb exons 2–6 in airway epithelial cells. Functional knockout of β-catenin had no impact on expression of Clara cell differentiation markers, mitotic index, or sensitivity of these cells to the Clara cell–specific toxicant, naphthalene. Repair of the naphthalene-injured airway proceeded with establishment of focal regions of β-catenin–null epithelium. The size of regenerative epithelial units, mitotic index, and restoration of the ciliated cell population did not vary between wild-type and genetically modified mice. Thus, β-catenin was not necessary for maintenance or efficient repair of the bronchiolar epithelium.
injury; repair; β-catenin; progenitor
Defective epithelial repair in the setting of chronic lung disease has been suggested to contribute to uncontrolled extracellular matrix (ECM) deposition and development of fibrosis. We sought to directly test this hypothesis through gene expression profiling of total lung RNA isolated from mouse models of selective epithelial cell injury that are associated with either productive or abortive repair. Analysis of gene expression in repairing lungs of naphthalene-exposed mice revealed prominent clusters of up-regulated genes with putative roles in regulation of the extracellular matrix and cellular proliferation. Further analysis of tenascin C (Tnc), a representative matrix protein, in total lung RNA revealed a transient 4.5-fold increase in mRNA abundance 1 day after injury and a return to steady-state levels by Recovery Day 3. Tnc was deposited by the peribronchiolar mesenchyme immediately after injury and was remodeled to basement membrane subtending the bronchiolar epithelium during epithelial repair. Epithelial restitution was accompanied by a decrease in Tnc mRNA and protein expression to steady-state levels. In contrast, abortive repair using a transgenic model allowing ablation of all reparative cells led to a progressive increase in Tnc mRNA within lung tissue and accumulation of its gene product within the subepithelial mesenchyme of both conducting airways and alveoli. These data demonstrate that the ECM is dynamically remodeled in response to selective epithelial cell injury and that this process is activated without resolution in the setting of defective airway epithelial repair.
airway epithelium; repair; Clara cell; extracellular matrix; fibrosis
Bronchiolar stem cells have been functionally defined in vivo on the basis of their resistance to chemical (naphthalene) injury, their infrequent proliferation relative to other progenitor cell types, and their coexpression of the airway and alveolar secretory cell markers Clara cell secretory protein and pro-surfactant protein C, respectively. Cell surface markers that have previously been used for their prospective isolation included Sca-1 and CD34. Using transgenic animal models associated with stem cell expansion, ablation, and lineage tracing, we demonstrate that CD34pos cells do not belong to the airway epithelial lineage and that cell surface Sca-1 immunoreactivity does not distinguish between bronchiolar stem and facultative transit-amplifying (Clara) cell populations. Furthermore, we show that high autofluorescence (AFhigh) is a distinguishing characteristic of Clara cells allowing for the fractionation of AFlow bronchiolar stem cells. On the basis of these data we show that the defining phenotype of the bronchiolar stem cell is CD45neg CD31neg CD34neg Sca-llow AFlow. This refinement in the definition of bronchiolar stem cells provides a critical tool by which to assess functional and molecular distinctions between bronchiolar stem cells and the more abundant pool of facultative transit-amplifying (Clara) cells.
Bronchiolar stem cell; Bronchioalveolar stem cell; Clara; Progenitor; Fractionation; Epithelium
Bronchiolar Clara cells undergo phenotypic changes during development and in disease. These changes are poorly described due to a paucity of molecular markers. We used chemical and transgenic approaches to ablate Clara cells, allowing identification of their unique gene expression profile. Flavin monooxygenase 3 (Fmo3), paraoxonase 1 (Pon1), aldehyde oxidase 3 (Aox3), and claudin 10 (Cldn10) were identified as novel Clara cell markers. New and existing Clara cell marker genes were categorized into three classes based on their unique developmental expression pattern. Cldn10 was uniformly expressed in the epithelium at Embryonic Day (E)14.5 and became restricted to secretory cells at E18.5. This transition was defined by induction of CCSP. Maturation of secretory cells was associated with progressive increases in the expression of Fmo3, Pon1, Aox3, and Cyp2f2 between late embryonic and postnatal periods. Messenger RNA abundance of all categories of genes was dramatically decreased after naphthalene-induced airway injury, and displayed a sequence of temporal induction during repair that suggested sequential secretory cell maturation. We have defined a broader repertoire of Clara cell–specific genes that allows staging of epithelial maturation during development and repair.
Clara; Claudin-10; bronchiole; differentiation; lung development
Maintenance of classic stem cell hierarchies is dependent upon stem cell self-renewal mediated in part by Wnt/β-catenin regulation of the cell cycle. This function is critical in rapidly renewing tissues due to the obligate role played by the tissue stem cell. However, the stem cell hierarchy responsible for maintenance of the conducting airway epithelium is distinct from classic stem cell hierarchies. The epithelium of conducting airways is maintained by transit-amplifying cells in the steady state; rare bronchiolar stem cells are activated to participate in epithelial repair only following depletion of transit-amplifying cells. Here, we investigate how signaling through β-catenin affects establishment and maintenance of the stem cell hierarchy within the slowly renewing epithelium of the lung. Conditional potentiation of β-catenin signaling in the embryonic lung results in amplification of airway stem cells through attenuated differentiation rather than augmented proliferation. Our data demonstrate that the differentiation-modulating activities of stabilized β-catenin account for expansion of tissue stem cells.
Adult stem cells; Progenitor cells; Regeneration; Bronchiole; Transgenic mouse
Dynamic changes to the developing lung endoderm during the process of lung development result in the establishment of functionally distinct epithelial compartments that vary both in their cellular composition and mechanisms contributing to their maintenance in adulthood. This focused review compares the hierarchical organization of cells within slowly and rapidly renewing tissues as a basis to better understand cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating epithelial maintenance and repair in the lung.
progenitor; stem cell; lung repair
Bronchioles of the distal conducting airway are lined by a simple epithelium composed primarily of nonciliated secretory (Clara) cells and ciliated cells. These cells are long-lived in the normal lung; renewal is mediated by cells that constitute a nonclassical stem cell hierarchy. Within this type of hierarchy, facultative progenitor cells are responsible for normal epithelial maintenance and rare adult tissue-specific stem cells are activated only in response to depletion of the facultative progenitor cell pool. This organizational structure is a departure from the classical stem cell hierarchies that maintain rapidly renewing tissues such as the epithelium of the small intestine. This article compares cellular and molecular mechanisms of epithelial renewal in the relatively quiescent bronchiolar epithelium and in the mitotically active intestinal epithelium. Fundamental distinctions between stem cell hierarchies of slowly and rapidly renewing epithelia are highlighted and may provide insight into tissue-specific interpretation of signals that mediate repair in some tissues but lead to remodeling and chronic disease in other organ systems.
stem cell; progenitor; bronchiole; repair
Signaling by Bone Morphogenetic Proteins (BMP) has been implicated in early lung development, adult lung homeostasis and tissue-injury repair. However, the precise mechanism of action and the spatio-temporal pattern of BMP-signaling during these processes remains inadequately described. To address this, we have utilized a transgenic line harboring a BMP-responsive eGFP-reporter allele (BRE-eGFP) to construct the first detailed spatiotemporal map of canonical BMP-pathway activation during lung development, homeostasis and adult-lung injury repair. We demonstrate that during the pseudoglandular stage, when branching morphogenesis progresses in the developing lung, canonical BMP-pathway is active mainly in the vascular network and the sub-epithelial smooth muscle layer of the proximal airways. Activation of the BMP-pathway becomes evident in epithelial compartments only after embryonic day (E) 14.5 primarily in cells negative for epithelial-lineage markers, located in the proximal portion of the airway-tree, clusters adjacent to neuro-epithelial-bodies (NEBs) and in a substantial portion of alveolar epithelial cells. The pathway becomes activated in isolated E12.5 mesenchyme-free distal epithelial buds cultured in Matrigel suggesting that absence of reporter activity in these regions stems from a dynamic cross-talk between endoderm and mesenchyme. Epithelial cells with activated BMP-pathway are enriched in progenitors capable of forming colonies in three-dimensional Matrigel cultures.
As lung morphogenesis approaches completion, eGFP-expression declines and in adult lung its expression is barely detectable. However, upon tissue-injury, either with naphthalene or bleomycin, the canonical BMP-pathways is re-activated, in bronchial or alveolar epithelial cells respectively, in a manner reminiscent to early lung development and in tissue areas where reparatory progenitor cells reside. Our studies illustrate the dynamic activation of canonical BMP-pathway during lung development and adult lung tissue-repair and highlight its involvement in two important processes, namely, the early development of the pulmonary vasculature and the management of epithelial progenitor pools both during lung development and repair of adult lung tissue-injury.
Epithelial antimicrobial activity may protect the lung against inhaled pathogens. The bactericidal/permeability-increasing protein family has demonstrated antimicrobial activity in vitro. PLUNC (palate, lung and nasal epithelium carcinoma associated) is a 25 kDa secreted protein that shares homology with bactericidal/permeability-increasing proteins and is expressed in nasopharyngeal and respiratory epithelium. The objective of this study was to determine whether PLUNC can limit Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection in mice. Transgenic mice (Scgb1a1-hPLUNC) were generated in which human PLUNC (hPLUNC) was directed to the airway epithelium with the Scgb1a1 promoter. The human PLUNC protein (hPLUNC) was detected in the epithelium throughout the trachea and bronchial airways and in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF). BALF from transgenic mice exhibited higher antibacterial activity than that from wild type littermates in vitro. Following in vivo P. aeruginosa challenge, Scgb1a1-hPLUNC transgenic mice displayed enhanced bacterial clearance. This was accompanied by a decrease in neutrophil infiltration and cytokine levels. More importantly, the over-expressed hPLUNC in Scgb1a1-hPLUNC transgenic mouse airway significantly enhanced mouse survival against P. aeruginosa induced respiratory infection. These data indicate that PLUNC is a novel antibacterial protein that likely plays a critical role in airway epithelium mediated innate immune response.
Rationale: Previously, we demonstrated a candidate region for susceptibility to airspace enlargement on mouse chromosome 5. However, the specific candidate genes within this region accounting for emphysema-like changes remain unrecognized. c-Kit is a receptor tyrosine kinase within this candidate gene region that has previously been recognized to contribute to the survival, proliferation, and differentiation of hematopoietic stem cells. Increases in the percentage of cells expressing c-Kit have previously been associated with protection against injury-induced emphysema.
Objectives: Determine whether genetic variants of c-Kit are associated with spontaneous airspace enlargement.
Methods: Perform single-nucleotide polymorphism association studies in the mouse strains at the extremes of airspace enlargement phenotype for variants in c-Kit tyrosine kinase. Characterize mice bearing functional variants of c-Kit compared with wild-type controls for the development of spontaneous airspace enlargement. Epithelial cell proliferation was measured in culture.
Measurements and Main Results: Upstream regulatory single-nucleotide polymorphisms in the divergent mouse strains were associated with the lung compliance difference observed between the extreme strains. c-Kit mutant mice (KitW-sh/W-sh), when compared with genetic controls, developed altered lung histology, increased total lung capacity, increased residual volume, and increased lung compliance that persist into adulthood. c-Kit inhibition with imatinib attenuated in vitro proliferation of cells expressing epithelial cell adhesion molecule.
Conclusions: Our findings indicate that c-Kit sustains and/or maintains normal alveolar architecture in the lungs of mice. In vitro data suggest that c-Kit can regulate epithelial cell clonal expansion. The precise mechanisms that c-Kit contributes to the development of airspace enlargement and increased lung compliance remain unclear and warrants further investigation.
genetic; tyrosine kinase; SASH; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; aging