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1.  CCAAT/Enhancer Binding Protein–α Regulates the Protease/Antiprotease Balance Required for Bronchiolar Epithelium Regeneration 
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.
PMCID: PMC3488626  PMID: 22652201
C/EBPα; antiprotease; Spink5; naphthalene; Scgb1a1
2.  Thy-1 Signals through PPARγ to Promote Lipofibroblast Differentiation in the Developing Lung 
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.
PMCID: PMC3380285  PMID: 22268140
Thy-1; lipofibroblast; PPARγ; lipid metabolism
3.  Sox2 Activates Cell Proliferation and Differentiation in the Respiratory Epithelium 
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.
PMCID: PMC3145063  PMID: 20855650
lung; transcription; progenitor cell; differentiation; tumorigenesis
4.  Rapamycin Prevents Transforming Growth Factor-α–Induced Pulmonary Fibrosis 
Transforming growth factor (TGF)-α is a ligand for the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). EGFR activation is associated with fibroproliferative processes in human lung disease and animal models of pulmonary fibrosis. Overexpression of TGF-α in transgenic mice causes progressive and severe pulmonary fibrosis; however, the intracellular signaling pathways downstream of EGFR mediating this response are unknown. Using a doxycycline-regulatable transgenic mouse model of lung-specific TGF-α expression, we observed increased PCNA protein and phosphorylation of Akt and p70S6K in whole lung homogenates in association with induction of TGF-α. Induction in the lung of TGF-α caused progressive pulmonary fibrosis over a 7-week period. Daily administration of rapamycin prevented accumulation of total lung collagen, weight loss, and changes in pulmonary mechanics. Treatment of mice with rapamycin 4 weeks after the induction of TGF-α prevented additional weight loss, increases in total collagen, and changes in pulmonary mechanics. Rapamycin prevented further increases in established pulmonary fibrosis induced by EGFR activation. This study demonstrates that mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is a major effector of EGFR-induced pulmonary fibrosis, providing support for further studies to determine the role of mTOR in the pathogenesis and treatment of pulmonary fibrosis.
PMCID: PMC2778163  PMID: 19244201
epidermal growth factor receptor; PI3K; Akt; mTOR
5.  Early Growth Response-1 Suppresses Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor–Mediated Airway Hyperresponsiveness and Lung Remodeling in Mice 
Transforming growth factor (TGF)-α and its receptor, the epidermal growth factor receptor, are induced after lung injury and are associated with remodeling in chronic pulmonary diseases, such as pulmonary fibrosis and asthma. Expression of TGF-α in the lungs of adult mice causes fibrosis, pleural thickening, and pulmonary hypertension, in addition to increased expression of a transcription factor, early growth response-1 (Egr-1). Egr-1 was increased in airway smooth muscle (ASM) and the vascular adventitia in the lungs of mice conditionally expressing TGF-α in airway epithelium (Clara cell secretory protein–rtTA+/−/[tetO]7–TGF-α+/−). The goal of this study was to determine the role of Egr-1 in TGF-α–induced lung disease. To accomplish this, TGF-α–transgenic mice were crossed to Egr-1 knockout (Egr-1ko/ko) mice. The lack of Egr-1 markedly increased the severity of TGF-α–induced pulmonary disease, dramatically enhancing airway muscularization, increasing pulmonary fibrosis, and causing greater airway hyperresponsiveness to methacholine. Smooth muscle hyperplasia, not hypertrophy, caused the ASM thickening in the absence of Egr-1. No detectable increases in pulmonary inflammation were found. In addition to the airway remodeling disease, vascular remodeling and pulmonary hypertension were also more severe in Egr-1ko/ko mice. Thus, Egr-1 acts to suppress epidermal growth factor receptor–mediated airway and vascular muscularization, fibrosis, and airway hyperresponsiveness in the absence of inflammation. This provides a unique model to study the processes causing pulmonary fibrosis and ASM thickening without the complicating effects of inflammation.
PMCID: PMC2746988  PMID: 19188657
transforming growth factor-α; pulmonary fibrosis; asthma; pulmonary hypertension; vascular remodeling
6.  Pulmonary Surfactant Surface Tension Influences Alveolar Capillary Shape and Oxygenation 
Alveolar capillaries are located in close proximity to the alveolar epithelium and beneath the surfactant film. We hypothesized that the shape of alveolar capillaries and accompanying oxygenation are influenced by surfactant surface tension in the alveolus. To prove our hypothesis, surfactant surface tension was regulated by conditional expression of surfactant protein (SP)-B in Sftpb−/− mice, thereby inhibiting surface tension–lowering properties of surfactant in vivo within 24 hours after depletion of Sftpb. Minimum surface tension of isolated surfactant was increased and oxygen saturation was significantly reduced after 2 days of SP-B deficiency in association with deformation of alveolar capillaries. Intravascularly injected 3.2-μm-diameter microbeads through jugular vein were retained within narrowed pulmonary capillaries after reduction of SP-B. Ultrastructure studies demonstrated that the capillary protrusion typical of the normal alveolar–capillary unit was reduced in size, consistent with altered pulmonary blood flow. Pulmonary hypertension and intrapulmonary shunting are commonly associated with surfactant deficiency and dysfunction in neonates and adults with respiratory distress syndromes. Increased surfactant surface tension caused by reduction in SP-B induced narrowing of alveolar capillaries and oxygen desaturation, demonstrating an important role of surface tension–lowering properties of surfactant in the regulation of pulmonary vascular perfusion.
PMCID: PMC2746989  PMID: 19202005
surfactant protein-B; transgenic mice; pulmonary blood flow; acute respiratory distress syndrome; pulmonary vascular perfusion
8.  Pulmonary Mastocytosis and Enhanced Lung Inflammation in Mice Heterozygous Null for the Foxf1 Gene 
The Forkhead Box f1 (Foxf1) transcriptional factor (previously known as HFH-8 or Freac-1) is expressed in endothelial and smooth muscle cells in the embryonic and adult lung. To assess effects of Foxf1 during lung injury, we used CCl4 and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) injury models. Foxf1+/− mice developed severe airway obstruction and bronchial edema, associated with increased numbers of pulmonary mast cells and increased mast cell degranulation after injury. Pulmonary inflammation in Foxf1+/− mice was associated with diminished expression of Foxf1, increased mast cell tryptase, and increased expression of CXCL12, the latter being essential for mast cell migration and chemotaxis. After ovalbumin (OVA) sensitization and OVA challenge, increased lung inflammation, airway hyperresponsiveness to methacholine, and elevated expression of CXCL12 were observed in Foxf1+/− mice. During lung development, Foxf1+/− embryos displayed a marked increase in pulmonary mast cells before birth, and this was associated with increased CXCL12 levels in the lung. Expression of a doxycycline-inducible Foxf1 dominant-negative transgene in primary cultures of lung endothelial cells increased CXCL12 expression in vitro. Foxf1 haploinsufficiency caused pulmonary mastocytosis and enhanced pulmonary inflammation after chemically induced or allergen-mediated lung injury, indicating an important role for Foxf1 in the pathogenesis of pulmonary inflammatory responses.
PMCID: PMC2551700  PMID: 18421012
Foxf1; CXCL12; SDF-1; mast cells; lung injury
9.  Alveolar Epithelial STAT3, IL-6 Family Cytokines, and Host Defense during Escherichia coli Pneumonia 
While signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) 3 signaling has been linked to multiple pathways influencing immune function and cell survival, the direct influence of this transcription factor on innate immunity and tissue homeostasis during pneumonia is unknown. Human patients with dominant-negative mutations in the Stat3 gene develop recurrent pneumonias, suggesting a role for STAT3 in pulmonary host defense. We hypothesized that alveolar epithelial STAT3 is activated by IL-6 family cytokines and is required for effective responses during gram-negative bacterial pneumonia. STAT3 phosphorylation was increased in pneumonic mouse lungs and in murine lung epithelial (MLE)-15 cells stimulated with pneumonic bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) through 48 hours of Escherichia coli pneumonia. Mice lacking active STAT3 in alveolar epithelial cells (Stat3Δ/Δ) had fewer alveolar neutrophils and more viable bacteria than control mice early after intratracheal E. coli. By 48 hours after E. coli infection, however, lung injury was increased in Stat3Δ/Δ mice. Bacteria were cleared from lungs of both genotypes, albeit more slowly in Stat3Δ/Δ mice. Of the IL-6 family cytokines measured in lungs from infected C57BL/6 mice, IL-6, oncostatin M, leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF), and IL-11 were significantly elevated. Neutralization studies demonstrated that LIF and IL-6 mediated BALF-induced STAT3 activation in MLE-15 cells. Together, these results indicate that during E. coli pneumonia, select IL-6 family members activate alveolar epithelial STAT3, which functions to promote neutrophil recruitment and to limit both infection and lung injury.
PMCID: PMC2396249  PMID: 18192501
lung; neutrophils; STAT3; pneumonia; cytokines
10.  STAT3 Regulates ABCA3 Expression and Influences Lamellar Body Formation in Alveolar Type II Cells 
ATP-Binding Cassette A3 (ABCA3) is a lamellar body associated lipid transport protein required for normal synthesis and storage of pulmonary surfactant in type II cells in the alveoli. In this study, we demonstrate that STAT3, activated by IL-6, regulates ABCA3 expression in vivo and in vitro. ABCA3 mRNA and immunostaining were decreased in adult mouse lungs in which STAT3 was deleted from the respiratory epithelium (Stat3Δ/Δ mice). Consistent with the role of STAT3, intratracheal IL-6 induced ABCA3 expression in vivo. Decreased ABCA3 and abnormalities in the formation of lamellar bodies, the intracellular site of surfactant lipid storage, were observed in Stat3Δ/Δ mice. Expression of SREBP1a and 1c, SCAP, ABCA3, and AKT mRNAs was inhibited by deletion of Stat3 in type II cells isolated from Stat3Δ/Δ mice. The activities of PI3K and AKT were required for normal Abca3 gene expression in vitro. AKT activation induced SREBP expression and increased the activity of the Abca3 promoter in vitro, consistent with the role of STAT3 signaling, at least in part via SREBP, in the regulation of ABCA3. ABCA3 expression is regulated by IL-6 in a pathway that includes STAT3, PI3K, AKT, SCAP, and SREBP. Activation of STAT3 after exposure to IL-6 enhances ABCA3 expression, which, in turn, influences pulmonary surfactant homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC2335336  PMID: 18096869
STAT3; ABCA3; IL-6; gene regulation; surfactant; hyperoxia
11.  Conditional Deletion of Pten Causes Bronchiolar Hyperplasia 
Tumor suppressor phosphatase and tensin homolog deleted on chromosome 10 (PTEN) is a lipid phosphatase that regulates multiple cellular processes including cell polarity, migration, proliferation, and carcinogenesis. In this work, we demonstrate that conditional deletion of Pten (PtenΔ/Δ) in the respiratory epithelial cells of the developing mouse lung caused epithelial cell proliferation and hyperplasia as early as 4 to 6 weeks of age. While bronchiolar cell differentiation was normal, as indicated by β-tubulin and FOXJ1 expression in ciliated cells and by CCSP expression in nonciliated cells, cell proliferation (detected by expression of Ki-67, phospho-histone-H3, and cyclin D1) was increased and associated with activation of the AKT/mTOR survival pathway. Deletion of Pten caused papillary epithelial hyperplasia characterized by a hypercellular epithelium lining papillae with fibrovascular cores that protruded into the airway lumens. Cell polarity, as assessed by subcellular localization of cadherin, β-catenin, and zonula occludens-1, was unaltered. PTEN is required for regulation of epithelial cell proliferation in the lung and for the maintenance of the normal simple columnar epithelium characteristics of bronchi and bronchioles.
PMCID: PMC2258453  PMID: 17921358
PTEN; AKT; bronchiolar; hyperplasia; cell-cycle
12.  Genomic Profile of Matrix and Vasculature Remodeling in TGF-α–Induced Pulmonary Fibrosis 
Expression of transforming growth factor α (TGF-α) in the respiratory epithelium of transgenic mice caused pulmonary fibrosis, cachexia, pulmonary hypertension, and altered lung function. To identify genes and molecular pathways mediating lung remodeling, mRNA microarray analysis was performed at multiple times after TGF-α expression and revealed changes consistent with a role for TGF-α in the regulation of extracellular matrix and vasculogenesis. Transcripts for extracellular matrix proteins were augmented along with transcripts for genes previously identified to have roles in pulmonary fibrosis, including tenascin C, osteopontin, and serine (or cysteine) peptidase inhibitor, clade F, member 1. Transcripts regulating vascular processes including endothelin receptor type B, endothelial-specific receptor tyrosine kinase, and caveolin, caveolae protein 1 were decreased. When TGF-α expression was no longer induced, lung remodeling partially reversed and lung function and pulmonary hypertension normalized. Transcripts increased during resolution included midkine, matrix metalloproteinase 2, and hemolytic complement. Hierarchical clustering revealed that genes regulated by TGF-α were similar to those altered in the lungs of patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. These studies support a role for epithelial cell–derived TGF-α in the regulation of processes that alter the airway and vascular architecture and function.
PMCID: PMC1994231  PMID: 17496152
epidermal growth factor receptor; idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis; vasculogenesis; angiogenesis; interstitial lung disease
13.  IL-1β Disrupts Postnatal Lung Morphogenesis in the Mouse 
Pulmonary inflammation and increased production of the inflammatory cytokine IL-1β are associated with the development of bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) in premature infants. To study the actions of IL-1β in the fetal and newborn lung in vivo, we developed a bitransgenic mouse in which IL-1β is expressed under conditional control in airway epithelial cells. Perinatal pulmonary expression of IL-1β caused respiratory insufficiency that was associated with increased postnatal mortality. While intrauterine growth of IL-1β–expressing mice was normal, their postnatal growth was impaired. IL-1β disrupted alveolar septation and caused abnormalities in α-smooth muscle actin and elastin deposition in the septa of distal airspaces. IL-1β disturbed capillary development and inhibited the production of vascular endothelial growth factor in the lungs of infant mice. IL-1β induced the expression of CXC chemokines KC (CXCL1) and macrophage inflammatory protein-2 (CXCL2) and of CC chemokines monocyte chemotactic protein (MCP)-1 (CCL2) and MCP-3 (CCL7), consistent with neutrophilic and monocytic infiltration of the lungs. IL-1β caused goblet cell metaplasia and bronchial smooth muscle hyperplasia. Perinatal expression of IL-1β in epithelial cells of the lung caused a lung disease that was clinically and histologically similar to BPD.
PMCID: PMC1899307  PMID: 16888287
inflammation; bronchopulmonary dysplasia; cytokine
14.  GM-CSF Regulates a PU.1-Dependent Transcriptional Program Determining the Pulmonary Response to LPS 
Alveolar macrophages (AMs) normally respond to lipopolysaccharide (LPS) by activating Toll-like receptor (TLR)-4 signaling, a mechanism critical to lung host defense against gram-negative bacteria such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Because granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF)–deficient (GM−/−) mice are hyporesponsive to LPS, we evaluated the role of GM-CSF in TLR-4 signaling in AMs. Pulmonary TNF-α levels and neutrophil recruitment 4 h after intratracheal administration of Pseudomonas LPS were reduced in GM−/− compared with wild-type (GM+/+) mice. Secretion of TNF-α by AMs exposed to LPS ex vivo was also reduced in GM−/− mice and restored in mice expressing GM-CSF specifically in the lungs (SPC-GM+/+/GM−/− mice). LPS-dependent NF-κB promoter activity, TNF-α secretion, and neutrophil chemokine release were reduced in AM cell lines derived from GM−/− mice (mAM) compared with GM+/+ (MH-S). Retroviral expression of PU.1 in mAM cells, which normally lack PU.1, rescued all of these AM defects. To determine whether GM-CSF, via PU.1, regulated expression of TLR-4 pathway components, mRNA and protein levels for key components were evaluated in MH-S cells (GM+/+, PU.1Positive), mAM cells (GM−/−, PU.1Negative), and mAMPU.1+ cells (GM−/−, PU.1Positive). Cluster of differentiation antigen-14, radioprotective 105, IL-1 receptor–associated kinase (IRAK)-M mRNA, and protein were dependent upon GM-CSF and restored by expression of PU.1. In contrast, expression of other TLR-4 pathway components (myeloid differentiation-2, TLR-4, IRAK-1, IRAK-2, Toll/IL-1 receptor domain containing adapter protein/MyD88 adaptor-like, myeloid differentiation primary-response protein 88, IRAK-4, TNF receptor–associated factor-6, NF-κB, inhibitor of NF-κB kinase) were not GM-CSF or PU.1-dependent. These results show that GM-CSF, via PU.1, enables AM responses to P. aeruginosa LPS by regulating expression of a specific subset of components of the TLR-4 signaling pathway.
PMCID: PMC1899305  PMID: 16917076
alveolar macrophages; inflammation; lung; neutrophils
15.  Transdifferentiation of Ciliated Cells during Repair of the Respiratory Epithelium 
Since the lung is repeatedly subjected to injury by pathogens and toxicants, maintenance of pulmonary homeostasis requires rapid repair of its epithelial surfaces. Ciliated bronchiolar epithelial cells, previously considered as terminally differentiated, underwent squamous cell metaplasia within hours after bronchiolar injury with naphthalene. Expression of transcription factors active in morphogenesis and differentiation of the embryonic lung, including β-catenin, Foxa2, Foxj1, and Sox family members (Sox17 and Sox2), was dynamically regulated during repair and redifferentiation of the bronchiolar epithelium after naphthalene injury. Squamous cells derived from ciliated cells spread beneath injured Clara cells within 6–12 h after injury, maintaining the integrity of the epithelium. Dynamic changes in cell shape and gene expression, indicating cell plasticity, accompanied the transition from squamous to cuboidal to columnar cell types as differentiation-specific cell markers typical of the mature airway were restored. Similar dynamic changes in the expression of these transcription factors occurred in ciliated and Clara cells during regeneration of the lung after unilateral pneumonectomy. Taken together, these findings demonstrate that ciliated epithelial cells spread and transdifferentiate into distinct epithelial cell types to repair the airway epithelium.
PMCID: PMC2644179  PMID: 16239640
naphthalene; lung injury; transcription; pneumonectomy; bronchiole
16.  Conditional Recombination Reveals Distinct Subsets of Epithelial Cells in Trachea, Bronchi, and Alveoli 
To identify relationships amongst tracheal and alveolar epithelial cells during lung development, we used conditional systems controlled by the rat CCSP and human SFTPC gene promoters to express Cre-recombinase in the developing mouse lung, thereby permanently labeling cells by expression of alkaline phosphatase or green fluorescent protein. When controlled by the rat CCSP promoter, continuous exposure of the fetus to doxycycline caused widespread recombination in conducting airway epithelial cells, including cells of the trachea, bronchi, and bronchioles before birth, and in both conducting and peripheral airways after birth. Neuroepithelial cells, identified by CGRP staining, were never labeled. Recombination and permanent labeling were observed in both ciliated and nonciliated respiratory epithelial cells, demonstrating their derivation from common progenitor cells during lung morphogenesis. Remarkable dorsal–ventral and cephalo–caudal labeling patterns, established before birth, were identified by recombination controlled by the rat CCSP gene promoter. In the trachea, subsets of epithelial cells labeled by the CCSP promoter were organized horizontally along the dorsal–ventral axis of the trachea, where selective labeling of cells juxtaposed to tracheal and bronchial cartilage was observed. In sharp contrast, recombination controlled by the human SFTPC gene promoter identified related cells that were organized in linear patterns along the cephalo–caudal axis of the conducting airways. Conditional expression of Cre-recombinase in the respiratory epithelium provides a useful model for the study of gene expression and function in the mouse respiratory tract and in the lung.
PMCID: PMC2715353  PMID: 16055670
CCSP; conditional gene targeting; CRE-recombinase; trachea; patterning

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