Evidence suggests epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) as one potential source of fibroblasts in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. To assess the contribution of alveolar epithelial cell (AEC) EMT to fibroblast accumulation in vivo following lung injury and the influence of extracellular matrix on AEC phenotype in vitro, Nkx2.1-Cre;mT/mG mice were generated in which AECs permanently express green fluorescent protein (GFP). On days 17-21 following intratracheal bleomycin administration, ~4% of GFP-positive epithelial-derived cells expressed vimentin or α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA). Primary AECs from Nkx2.1-Cre;mT/mG mice cultured on laminin-5 or fibronectin maintained an epithelial phenotype. In contrast, on type I collagen, cells of epithelial origin displayed nuclear localization of Smad3, acquired spindle-shaped morphology, expressed α-SMA and phospho-Smad3, consistent with activation of the transforming growth factor-β (TGFβ) signalling pathway and EMT. α-SMA induction and Smad3 nuclear localization were blocked by the TGFβ type I receptor (TβRI, otherwise known as Alk5) inhibitor SB431542, while AEC derived from Nkx2.1-Cre;Alk5(flox/KO) mice did not undergo EMT on collagen, consistent with a requirement for signalling via Alk5 in collagen-induced EMT. Inability of a pan-specific TGFβ neutralizing antibody to inhibit effects of collagen together with absence of active TGFβ in culture supernatants is consistent with TGFβ ligand-independent activation of Smad signalling. These results support the notion that AECs can acquire a mesenchymal phenotype following injury in vivo and implicate type I collagen as a key regulator of EMT in AECs through signalling via Alk5, likely in a TGFβ ligand-independent manner.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Alveolar epithelial cells (AECs) participate in the pathogenesis of pulmonary fibrosis, producing pro-inflammatory mediators and undergoing epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Herein, we demonstrated the critical role of Forkhead Box M1 (Foxm1) transcription factor in radiation-induced pulmonary fibrosis. Foxm1 was induced in AECs following lung irradiation. Transgenic expression of an activated Foxm1 transcript in AECs enhanced radiation-induced pneumonitis and pulmonary fibrosis, and increased the expression of IL-1β, Ccl2, Cxcl5, Snail1, Zeb1, Zeb2 and Foxf1. Conditional deletion of Foxm1 from respiratory epithelial cells decreased radiation-induced pulmonary fibrosis and prevented the increase in EMT-associated gene expression. siRNA-mediated inhibition of Foxm1 prevented TGF-β-induced EMT in vitro. Foxm1 bound to and increased promoter activity of the Snail1 gene, a critical transcriptional regulator of EMT. Expression of Snail1 restored TGF-β-induced loss of E-cadherin in Foxm1-deficient cells in vitro. Lineage-tracing studies demonstrated that Foxm1 increased EMT during radiation-induced pulmonary fibrosis in vivo. Foxm1 is required for radiation-induced pulmonary fibrosis by enhancing the expression of genes critical for lung inflammation and EMT.
The EMBO Journal 01/2013; 32(2). DOI:10.1038/emboj.2012.336 · 10.43 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The key role of extracellular matrices in alveolar epithelial cell (AEC) biology is highlighted by the phenotypes of primary AECs cultured on a soft laminin gel contrasted with that on a stiff, fibronectin matrix. On laminin, AECs maintain an epithelial phenotype, and progenitor cells within this population proliferate. In contrast, on fibronectin, AECs rapidly lose surfactant expression and spread extensively, changes that depend on activation of latent TGF-β1 by engagement of fibronectin-binding integrins. The progenitor subpopulation responding to TGF-β1 undergoes epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT). Although it remains uncertain to what degree EMT contributes directly to collagen 1 production, signaling pathways critical to EMT are important for repair and fibrosis, implying that EMT is part of the general program of lung repair. EMT reprogramming requires not only Smad signaling but also pY654-β-catenin. Generation of pY654-β-catenin requires assembly of complexes of the integrin α3β1, E-cadherin, and TGF-β1 receptors, and such assembly is a function of cell-cell and cell-matrix contacts. Sequestration of α3β1 or E-cadherin in such contacts prevents complex assembly, TGF-β1 induced pY654-β-catenin generation and EMT. Disruption of these contacts is a signal for the cells to initiate repair. Critical remaining questions center around better definition of direct versus indirect effects of EMT on collagen deposition and the nature of AEC progenitors differentiating during fibrogenesis. Elucidation of specific inhibitors of EMT should further test the question of whether the process is important to fibrosis in vivo and a viable therapeutic target.
Proceedings of the American Thoracic Society 07/2012; 9(3):89-95. DOI:10.1513/pats.201112-053AW
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Pathogenesis of interstitial lung diseases (ILD) has largely been investigated in the context of the most frequent ILD, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). We review studies of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and discuss its potential contribution to collagen-producing (myo)fibroblasts in IPF.
Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress leading to epithelial apoptosis has been reported as a potential etiologic factor in fibrosis. Recent studies further suggest EMT as a link between ER stress and fibrosis. Combinatorial interactions among Smad3, β-catenin and other transcriptional co-activators at the α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) promoter provide direct evidence for crosstalk between transforming growth factor-β (TGFβ) and β-catenin pathways during EMT. Lineage tracing yielded conflicting results, with two recent studies supporting and one opposing a role for EMT in lung fibrosis.
Advances have been made in elucidating causes and mechanisms of EMT, potentially leading to new treatment options, although contributions of EMT to lung fibrosis in vivo remain controversial. In addition to EMT providing a direct source of (myo)fibroblasts, expression of mesenchymal markers may reflect epithelial injury, in which case inhibition of EMT might be deleterious. EMT-derived cells may also contribute to aberrant epithelial-mesenchymal crosstalk that promotes fibrogenesis.
Current opinion in pulmonary medicine 09/2012; 18(5):517-23. DOI:10.1097/MCP.0b013e3283566721 · 2.76 Impact Factor
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