BACKGROUND. The link between mucus plugs and airflow obstruction has not been established in chronic severe asthma, and the role of eosinophils and their products in mucus plug formation is unknown. METHODS. In clinical studies, we developed and applied a bronchopulmonary segment–based scoring system to quantify mucus plugs on multidetector computed tomography (MDCT) lung scans from 146 subjects with asthma and 22 controls, and analyzed relationships among mucus plug scores, forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1), and airway eosinophils. Additionally, we used airway mucus gel models to explore whether oxidants generated by eosinophil peroxidase (EPO) oxidize cysteine thiol groups to promote mucus plug formation. RESULTS. Mucus plugs occurred in at least 1 of 20 lung segments in 58% of subjects with asthma and in only 4.5% of controls, and the plugs in subjects with asthma persisted in the same segment for years. A high mucus score (plugs in ≥ 4 segments) occurred in 67% of subjects with asthma with FEV1 of less than 60% of predicted volume, 19% with FEV1 of 60%–80%, and 6% with FEV1 greater than 80% (P < 0.001) and was associated with marked increases in sputum eosinophils and EPO. EPO catalyzed oxidation of thiocyanate and bromide by H2O2 to generate oxidants that crosslink cysteine thiol groups and stiffen thiolated hydrogels. CONCLUSION. Mucus plugs are a plausible mechanism of chronic airflow obstruction in severe asthma, and EPO-generated oxidants may mediate mucus plug formation. We propose an approach for quantifying airway mucus plugging using MDCT lung scans and suggest that treating mucus plugs may improve airflow in chronic severe asthma. TRIAL REGISTRATION. Clinicaltrials.gov NCT01718197, NCT01606826, NCT01750411, NCT01761058, NCT01761630, NCT01759186, NCT01716494, and NCT01760915. FUNDING. NIH grants P01 HL107201, R01 HL080414, U10 HL109146, U10 HL109164, U10 HL109172, U10 HL109086, U10 HL109250, U10 HL109168, U10 HL109257, U10 HL109152, and P01 HL107202 and National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences grants UL1TR0000427, UL1TR000448, and KL2TR000428.
Eleanor M. Dunican, Brett M. Elicker, David S. Gierada, Scott K. Nagle, Mark L. Schiebler, John D. Newell, Wilfred W. Raymond, Marrah E. Lachowicz-Scroggins, Selena Di Maio, Eric A. Hoffman, Mario Castro, Sean B. Fain, Nizar N. Jarjour, Elliot Israel, Bruce D. Levy, Serpil C. Erzurum, Sally E. Wenzel, Deborah A. Meyers, Eugene R. Bleecker, Brenda R. Phillips, David T. Mauger, Erin D. Gordon, Prescott G. Woodruff, Michael C. Peters, John V. Fahy, The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Severe Asthma Research Program (SARP)
Claudins, the integral tight junction (TJ) proteins that regulate paracellular permeability and cell polarity, are frequently dysregulated in cancer; however, their role in neoplastic progression is unclear. Here, we demonstrated that knockout of Cldn18, a claudin family member highly expressed in lung alveolar epithelium, leads to lung enlargement, parenchymal expansion, increased abundance and proliferation of known distal lung progenitors, the alveolar epithelial type II (AT2) cells, activation of Yes-associated protein (YAP), increased organ size, and tumorigenesis in mice. Inhibition of YAP decreased proliferation and colony-forming efficiency (CFE) of Cldn18–/– AT2 cells and prevented increased lung size, while CLDN18 overexpression decreased YAP nuclear localization, cell proliferation, CFE, and YAP transcriptional activity. CLDN18 and YAP interacted and colocalized at cell-cell contacts, while loss of CLDN18 decreased YAP interaction with Hippo kinases p-LATS1/2. Additionally, Cldn18–/– mice had increased propensity to develop lung adenocarcinomas (LuAd) with age, and human LuAd showed stage-dependent reduction of CLDN18.1. These results establish CLDN18 as a regulator of YAP activity that serves to restrict organ size, progenitor cell proliferation, and tumorigenesis, and suggest a mechanism whereby TJ disruption may promote progenitor proliferation to enhance repair following injury.
Beiyun Zhou, Per Flodby, Jiao Luo, Dan R. Castillo, Yixin Liu, Fa-Xing Yu, Alicia McConnell, Bino Varghese, Guanglei Li, Nyam-Osor Chimge, Mitsuhiro Sunohara, Michael N. Koss, Wafaa Elatre, Peter Conti, Janice M. Liebler, Chenchen Yang, Crystal N. Marconett, Ite A. Laird-Offringa, Parviz Minoo, Kunliang Guan, Barry R. Stripp, Edward D. Crandall, Zea Borok
Adaptation to respiration at birth depends upon the synthesis of pulmonary surfactant, a lipid-protein complex that reduces surface tension at the air-liquid interface in the alveoli and prevents lung collapse during the ventilatory cycle. Herein, we demonstrated that the gene encoding a subunit of the endoplasmic reticulum membrane complex, EMC3, also known as TMEM111 (Emc3/Tmem111), was required for murine pulmonary surfactant synthesis and lung function at birth. Conditional deletion of Emc3 in murine embryonic lung epithelial cells disrupted the synthesis and packaging of surfactant lipids and proteins, impaired the formation of lamellar bodies, and induced the unfolded protein response in alveolar type 2 (AT2) cells. EMC3 was essential for the processing and routing of surfactant proteins, SP-B and SP-C, and the biogenesis of the phospholipid transport protein ABCA3. Transcriptomic, lipidomic, and proteomic analyses demonstrated that EMC3 coordinates the assembly of lipids and proteins in AT2 cells that is necessary for surfactant synthesis and function at birth.
Xiaofang Tang, John M. Snowball, Yan Xu, Cheng-Lun Na, Timothy E. Weaver, Geremy Clair, Jennifer E. Kyle, Erika M. Zink, Charles Ansong, Wei Wei, Meina Huang, Xinhua Lin, Jeffrey A. Whitsett
Acute lung injury is a leading cause of death in bacterial sepsis due to the wholesale destruction of the lung endothelial barrier, which results in protein-rich lung edema, influx of proinflammatory leukocytes, and intractable hypoxemia. Pyroptosis is a form of programmed lytic cell death that is triggered by inflammatory caspases, but little is known about its role in EC death and acute lung injury. Here, we show that systemic exposure to the bacterial endotoxin lipopolysaccharide (LPS) causes severe endothelial pyroptosis that is mediated by the inflammatory caspases, human caspases 4/5 in human ECs, or the murine homolog caspase-11 in mice in vivo. In caspase-11–deficient mice, BM transplantation with WT hematopoietic cells did not abrogate endotoxemia-induced acute lung injury, indicating a central role for nonhematopoietic caspase-11 in endotoxemia. Additionally, conditional deletion of caspase-11 in ECs reduced endotoxemia-induced lung edema, neutrophil accumulation, and death. These results establish the requisite role of endothelial pyroptosis in endotoxemic tissue injury and suggest that endothelial inflammatory caspases are an important therapeutic target for acute lung injury.
Kwong Tai Cheng, Shiqin Xiong, Zhiming Ye, Zhigang Hong, Anke Di, Kit Man Tsang, Xiaopei Gao, Shejuan An, Manish Mittal, Stephen M. Vogel, Edward A. Miao, Jalees Rehman, Asrar B. Malik
P-element–induced wimpy testes (Piwi) proteins are known for suppressing retrotransposon activation in the mammalian germline. However, whether Piwi protein or Piwi-dependent functions occur in the mammalian soma is unclear. Contrary to germline-restricted expression, we observed that Piwi-like Miwi2 mRNA is indeed expressed in epithelial cells of the lung in adult mice and that it is induced during pneumonia. Further investigation revealed that MIWI2 protein localized to the cytoplasm of a discrete population of multiciliated airway epithelial cells. Isolation and next-generation sequencing of MIWI2-positive multiciliated cells revealed that they are phenotypically distinct from neighboring MIWI2-negative multiciliated cells. Mice lacking MIWI2 exhibited an altered balance of airway epithelial cells, demonstrating fewer multiciliated cells and an increase in club cells. During pneumococcal pneumonia, Miwi2-deficient mice exhibited increased expression of inflammatory mediators and increased immune cell recruitment, leading to enhanced bacterial clearance. Taken together, our data delineate MIWI2-dependent functions outside of the germline and demonstrate the presence of distinct subsets of airway multiciliated cells that can be discriminated by MIWI2 expression. By demonstrating roles for MIWI2 in airway cell identity and pulmonary innate immunity, these studies elucidate unanticipated physiological functions for Piwi proteins in somatic tissues.
Gregory A. Wasserman, Aleksander D. Szymaniak, Anne C. Hinds, Kazuko Yamamoto, Hirofumi Kamata, Nicole M.S. Smith, Kristie L. Hilliard, Claudia Carrieri, Adam T. Labadorf, Lee J. Quinton, Xingbin Ai, Xaralabos Varelas, Felicia Chen, Joseph P. Mizgerd, Alan Fine, Dónal O’Carroll, Matthew R. Jones
TGF-β1 signaling is a critical driver of collagen accumulation and fibrotic disease but also a vital suppressor of inflammation and epithelial cell proliferation. The nature of this multifunctional cytokine has limited the development of global TGF-β1 signaling inhibitors as therapeutic agents. We conducted phenotypic screens for small molecules that inhibit TGF-β1–induced epithelial-mesenchymal transition without immediate TGF-β1 receptor (TβR) kinase inhibition. We identified trihydroxyphenolic compounds as potent blockers of TGF-β1 responses (IC50 ~50 nM), Snail1 expression, and collagen deposition in vivo in models of pulmonary fibrosis and collagen-dependent lung cancer metastasis. Remarkably, the functional effects of trihydroxyphenolics required the presence of active lysyl oxidase–like 2 (LOXL2), thereby limiting effects to fibroblasts or cancer cells, the major LOXL2 producers. Mechanistic studies revealed that trihydroxyphenolics induce auto-oxidation of a LOXL2/3–specific lysine (K731) in a time-dependent reaction that irreversibly inhibits LOXL2 and converts the trihydrophenolic to a previously undescribed metabolite that directly inhibits TβRI kinase. Combined inhibition of LOXL2 and TβRI activities by trihydrophenolics resulted in potent blockade of pathological collagen accumulation in vivo without the toxicities associated with global inhibitors. These findings elucidate a therapeutic approach to attenuate fibrosis and the disease-promoting effects of tissue stiffness by specifically targeting TβRI kinase in LOXL2-expressing cells.
Ying Wei, Thomas J. Kim, David H. Peng, Dana Duan, Don L. Gibbons, Mitsuo Yamauchi, Julia R. Jackson, Claude J. Le Saux, Cheresa Calhoun, Jay Peters, Rik Derynck, Bradley J. Backes, Harold A. Chapman
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a progressive disease with a prevalence of 1 million persons worldwide. The fibrosis spreads from affected alveoli into contiguous alveoli and leads to death by asphyxiation. We previously discovered that the IPF lung harbors fibrogenic mesenchymal progenitor cells (MPCs) that serve as a cell of origin for disease-mediating myofibroblasts. In a prior genomewide transcriptional analysis, we found that IPF MPCs displayed increased expression of S100 calcium-binding A4 (S100A4), a protein linked to cancer cell proliferation and invasiveness. Here, we have examined whether S100A4 mediates MPC fibrogenicity. Ex vivo analysis revealed that IPF MPCs had increased levels of nuclear S100A4, which interacts with L-isoaspartyl methyltransferase to promote p53 degradation and MPC self-renewal. In vivo, injection of human IPF MPCs converted a self-limited bleomycin-induced mouse model of lung fibrosis to a model of persistent fibrosis in an S100A4-dependent manner. S100A4 gain of function was sufficient to confer fibrotic properties to non-IPF MPCs. In IPF tissue, fibroblastic foci contained cells expressing Ki67 and the MPC markers SSEA4 and S100A4. The expression colocalized in an interface region between myofibroblasts in the focus core and normal alveolar structures, defining this region as an active fibrotic front. Our findings indicate that IPF MPCs are intrinsically fibrogenic and that S100A4 confers MPCs with fibrogenicity.
Hong Xia, Adam Gilbertsen, Jeremy Herrera, Emilian Racila, Karen Smith, Mark Peterson, Timothy Griffin, Alexey Benyumov, Libang Yang, Peter B. Bitterman, Craig A. Henke
It has been postulated that during human fetal development, all cells of the lung epithelium derive from embryonic, endodermal, NK2 homeobox 1–expressing (NKX2-1+) precursor cells. However, this hypothesis has not been formally tested owing to an inability to purify or track these progenitors for detailed characterization. Here we have engineered and developmentally differentiated NKX2-1GFP reporter pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) in vitro to generate and isolate human primordial lung progenitors that express NKX2-1 but are initially devoid of differentiated lung lineage markers. After sorting to purity, these primordial lung progenitors exhibited lung epithelial maturation. In the absence of mesenchymal coculture support, this NKX2-1+ population was able to generate epithelial-only spheroids in defined 3D cultures. Alternatively, when recombined with fetal mouse lung mesenchyme, the cells recapitulated epithelial-mesenchymal developing lung interactions. We imaged these progenitors in real time and performed time-series global transcriptomic profiling and single-cell RNA sequencing as they moved through the earliest moments of lung lineage specification. The profiles indicated that evolutionarily conserved, stage-dependent gene signatures of early lung development are expressed in primordial human lung progenitors and revealed a CD47hiCD26lo cell surface phenotype that allows their prospective isolation from untargeted, patient-specific PSCs for further in vitro differentiation and future applications in regenerative medicine.
Finn Hawkins, Philipp Kramer, Anjali Jacob, Ian Driver, Dylan C. Thomas, Katherine B. McCauley, Nicholas Skvir, Ana M. Crane, Anita A. Kurmann, Anthony N. Hollenberg, Sinead Nguyen, Brandon G. Wong, Ahmad S. Khalil, Sarah X.L. Huang, Susan Guttentag, Jason R. Rock, John M. Shannon, Brian R. Davis, Darrell N. Kotton
Pulmonary vascular disease is characterized by remodeling and loss of microvessels and is typically attributed to pathological responses in vascular endothelium or abnormal smooth muscle cell phenotypes. We have challenged this understanding by defining an adult pulmonary mesenchymal progenitor cell (MPC) that regulates both microvascular function and angiogenesis. The current understanding of adult MPCs and their roles in homeostasis versus disease has been limited by a lack of genetic markers with which to lineage label multipotent mesenchyme and trace the differentiation of these MPCs into vascular lineages. Here, we have shown that lineage-labeled lung MPCs expressing the ATP-binding cassette protein ABCG2 (ABCG2+) are pericyte progenitors that participate in microvascular homeostasis as well as adaptive angiogenesis. Activation of Wnt/β-catenin signaling, either autonomously or downstream of decreased BMP receptor signaling, enhanced ABCG2+ MPC proliferation but suppressed MPC differentiation into a functional pericyte lineage. Thus, enhanced Wnt/β-catenin signaling in ABCG2+ MPCs drives a phenotype of persistent microvascular dysfunction, abnormal angiogenesis, and subsequent exacerbation of bleomycin-induced fibrosis. ABCG2+ MPCs may, therefore, account in part for the aberrant microvessel function and remodeling that are associated with chronic lung diseases.
Christa F. Gaskill, Erica J. Carrier, Jonathan A. Kropski, Nathaniel C. Bloodworth, Swapna Menon, Robert F. Foronjy, M. Mark Taketo, Charles C. Hong, Eric D. Austin, James D. West, Anna L. Means, James E. Loyd, W. David Merryman, Anna R. Hemnes, Stijn De Langhe, Timothy S. Blackwell, Dwight J. Klemm, Susan M. Majka
Germline coding mutations in different telomere-related genes have been linked to autosomal-dominant familial pulmonary fibrosis. Individuals with these inherited mutations demonstrate incomplete penetrance of clinical phenotypes affecting the lung, blood, liver, skin, and other organs. Here, we describe the somatic acquisition of promoter mutations in telomerase reverse transcriptase (
Lindley Maryoung, Yangbo Yue, Ashley Young, Chad A. Newton, Cindy Barba, Nicolai S. C. van Oers, Richard C. Wang, Christine Kim Garcia