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30 April 2024

Arrestin beta 1 Regulates Alveolar Progenitor Renewal and Lung Fibrosis

The molecular mechanisms that regulate progressive pulmonary fibrosis remain poorly understood. Type 2 alveolar epithelial cells (AEC2s) function as adult stem cells in the lung. We previously showed that there is a loss of AEC2s and a failure of AEC2 renewal in the lungs of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) patients. We also reported that beta-arrestins are the key regulators of fibroblast invasion, and beta-arrestin 1 and 2 deficient mice exhibit decreased mortality, decreased matrix deposition, and increased lung function in bleomycin-induced lung fibrosis. However, the role of beta-arrestins in AEC2 regeneration is unclear. In this study, we investigated the role and mechanism of Arrestin beta 1 (ARRB1) in AEC2 renewal and in lung fibrosis. We used conventional deletion as well as cell type-specific deletion of ARRB1 in mice and found that Arrb1 deficiency in fibroblasts protects mice from lung fibrosis, and the knockout mice exhibit enhanced AEC2 regeneration in vivo, suggesting a role of fibroblast-derived ARRB1 in AEC2 renewal. We further found that Arrb1-deficient fibroblasts promotes AEC2 renewal in 3D organoid assays. Mechanistically, we found that CCL7 is among the top downregulated cytokines in Arrb1 deficient fibroblasts and CCL7 inhibits AEC2 regeneration in 3D organoid experiments. Therefore, fibroblast ARRB1 mediates AEC2 renewal, possibly by releasing chemokine CCL7, leading to fibrosis in the lung.

Keywords: Lung; Fibrosis; IPF; Arrb1; AEC2; Alveolar stem cell; CCL7; Stem cell


26 February 2024

Mechanisms of Fibroblast Activation during Fibrotic Tissue Remodeling

Fibrosis can occur in almost every organ system. It can occur in single organs, such as in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), or affect multiple organs as in systemic sclerosis (SSc). Fibrotic diseases are recognized as major cause of morbidity and mortality in modern societies due to the dysfunction or loss of function of the affected organs. This dysfunction is caused by progressive deposition of extracellular matrix proteins released by activated fibroblasts. Activation of fibroblasts and differentiation into myofibroblasts is required for physiological tissue remodeling, e.g, during wound healing. Disruption of regulatory mechanisms, however, results in chronic and uncontrolled activity of fibroblasts and myofibroblasts. Intensive research during the past years identified several core pathways of pathophysiological relevance, and described different fibroblast subsets based on their expression profile in fibrotic tissue. Herein, we discuss the molecular changes in fibroblasts leading to persistent activation during fibrotic tissue remodeling with a focus on lung fibrosis and SSc.

Keywords: Fibrosis; Systemic sclerosis; Fibroblast

Meeting Report

20 February 2024

The Cellular and Metabolic Bases of Organ Fibrosis: UNIA Workshop 2023 in Baeza, Spain

Fibrosis is defined by scarring and tissue hardening caused by excess deposition of extracellular matrix components, mainly collagens. A fibrotic response can occur in any tissue of the body and is the final outcome of an unbalanced reaction to inflammation and wound healing induced by a variety of insults, including persistent infections, autoimmune reactions, allergic responses, chemical exposure, radiation, and tissue injury. The accumulation of extracellular matrix proteins replaces the living tissue and disrupts the architecture leading to organ malfunction. Fibrosis remains a major clinical and therapeutic challenge and has been estimated to account for 45% of deaths in the developed world. While major advances regarding mechanistic knowledge on the underlying cell biology alterations in fibrosis have helped to characterize the main phases and mediators involved, this knowledge has not yielded significant progress in treatment. Only recently, the metabolic features associated to fibrosis have begun to emerge. This information, likely representing only the tip of the iceberg, suggests that metabolic derangement is a key culprit in the pathophysiology of fibrogenesis. The Workshop on The Cellular and Metabolic Bases of Organ Fibrosis, International University of Andalusia, Baeza, Spain, October 8–11, 2023 aimed to discuss the current knowledge and novel perspectives on the mechanisms contributing to the development of fibrosis in different organs and tissues, with particular focus on new methodological developments in metabolomics and therapeutic strategies.

Keywords: Fibrosis; Fibroblast; Inflammation; Metabolism; Tissue repair


01 February 2024

Molecular Regulation of Transforming Growth Factor-β1-induced Thioredoxin-interacting Protein Ubiquitination and Proteasomal Degradation in Lung Fibroblasts: Implication in Pulmonary Fibrosis

Thioredoxin-interacting protein (TXNIP) plays a critical role in regulation of cellular redox reactions and inflammatory responses by interacting with thioredoxin (TRX) or the inflammasome. The role of TXNIP in lung fibrosis and molecular regulation of its stability have not been well studied. Therefore, here we investigated the molecular regulation of TXNIP stability and its role in TGF-β1-mediated signaling in lung fibroblasts. TXNIP protein levels were significantly decreased in lung tissues from bleomycin-challenged mice. Overexpression of TXNIP attenuated transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1)-induced phosphorylation of Smad2/3 and fibronectin expression in lung fibroblasts, suggesting that decrease in TXNIP may contribute to the pathogenesis of lung fibrosis. Further, we observed that TGF-β1 lowered TXNIP protein levels, while TXNIP mRNA levels were unaltered by TGF-β1 exposure. TGF-β1 induced TXNIP degradation via the ubiquitin-proteasome system. A serine residue mutant (TNXIP-S308A) was resistant to TGF-β1-induced degradation. Furthermore, downregulation of ubiquitin-specific protease-13 (USP13) promoted the TGF-β1-induced TXNIP ubiquitination and degradation. Mechanistic studies revealed that USP13 targeted and deubiquitinated TXNIP. The results of this study revealed that the decrease of TXNIP in lungs apparently contributes to the pathogenesis of pulmonary fibrosis and that USP13 can target TXNP for deubiquitination and regulate its stability.

Keywords: TXNIP; Lung fibroblasts; Lung fibrosis; Deubiquitination; TGF-β1; USP13


21 December 2023

TANGO1 Dances to Export of Procollagen from the Endoplasmic Reticulum

ABSTRACT: The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to Golgi secretory pathway is an elegantly complex process whereby protein cargoes are manufactured, folded, and distributed from the ER to the cisternal layers of the Golgi stack before they are delivered to their final destinations. The export of large bulky cargoes such as procollagen and its trafficking to the Golgi is a sophisticated mechanism requiring TANGO1 (Transport ANd Golgi Organization protein 1. It is also called MIA3 (Melanoma Inhibitory Activity protein 3). TANGO1 has two prominent isoforms, TANGO1-Long and TANGO1-Short, and each isoform has specific functions. On the luminal side, TANGO1-Long has an HSP47 recruitment domain and uses this protein to collect collagen. It can also tether its paralog isoforms cTAGE5 and TALI and along with these proteins enlarges the vesicle to accommodate procollagen. Recent studies show that TANGO1-Long combines retrograde membrane flow with anterograde cargo transport. This complex mechanism is highly activated in fibrosis and promotes the excessive deposition of collagen in the tissues. The therapeutic targeting of TANGO1 may prove successful in the control of fibrotic disorders. This review focuses on TANGO1 and its complex interaction with other procollagen export factors that modulate increased vesicle size to accommodate the export of procollagen. 

Keywords: TANGO1; Fibrosis; Myofibroblast; Extracellular matrix; COPII; Systemic sclerosis


28 November 2023

Translational Studies Reveal the Divergent Effects of Simtuzumab Targeting LOXL2 in Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis

The composition of extracellular matrix (ECM) is altered during pathologic scarring in damaged organs including the lung. One major change in the ECM involves the cross-linking of collagen, which promotes fibroblast to myofibroblast differentiation. We examined the role of lysyl oxidase (LOX)-like 2 in lung progenitors and fibroblasts cultured from normal or IPF lung samples and in a humanized mouse model of IPF using a monoclonal antibody (Simtuzumab). Primary lung fibroblasts from normal donor lungs and IPF lung explants were examined for expression of LOXL2. Targeting LOXL2 with Simtuzumab on normal and IPF fibroblasts was examined both in vitro and in vivo for synthetic, functional, and profibrotic properties. LOXL2 was increased at transcript and protein level in IPF compared with normal lung samples. In a dose-dependent manner, Simtuzumab enhanced differentiation of fibroblasts into myofibroblasts. Inhibition of LOXL2 also enhanced fibroblast invasion and accelerated the outgrowth of fibroblasts from dissociated human lung cell preparations. Finally, preventative or delayed delivery of Simtuzumab enhanced lung fibrosis in a humanized mouse model of pulmonary fibrosis. Consistent with its failure in a Phase 2 clinical trial, Simtuzumab exhibited no therapeutic efficacy in translational in vitro and in vivo assays.

Keywords: IPF; Pulmonary fibrosis; Collagen; LoxL2; Simtuzumab; Humanized mouse model of IPF


17 October 2023

The Severity of Isoproterenol-induced Myocardial Fibrosis and Related Dysfunction in Mice is Strain-dependent

The isoproterenol (or isoprenaline; ISO)-induced model of myocardial injury provides a non-surgical means of establishing features of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in various species, including left ventricular (LV) inflammation, cardiomyocyte hypertrophy, vascular rarefaction, fibrosis and related dysfunction. However, when established in mice, the progression and severity of the LV fibrosis that manifests in this model can be affected by the exposure time and/or dosing of ISO applied, and by strain when an equivalent exposure time and dose are administered. In this study, we measured the severity of LV fibrosis by biochemical and histological means in 129sv, C57BL/6J and FVB/N mice exposed to repeated ISO (25 mg/kg for 5 days) administration at 14-days post-injury. At the time-point studied, these strains of mice underwent a ~2-fold, ~0.7-fold and ~0.3-fold increase in LV collagen concentration, respectively, compared to their saline-injected controls; whilst 129sv and C57BL/6J mice underwent a corresponding ~7-fold and ~1-fold increase in picrosirius red-stained interstitial LV collagen deposition, respectively. C57BL/6J mice subjected to higher dosing of ISO (50 or 100 mg/kg for 5 days) underwent a ~1.4–1.6-fold increase in picrosirius red-stained interstitial LV collagen deposition and some LV systolic dysfunction at day-14 post-injury, but the fibrosis in these mice was still less severe than that measured in 129sv mice given a lower dose of ISO. These findings highlight that strain-dependent differences in ISO-induced LV fibrosis severity can impact on evaluating pathological features of DCM and the therapeutic effects of anti-fibrotic drugs/strategies in this model.

Keywords: Dilated cardiomyopathy; Myocardial fibrosis; Systolic dysfunction; Isoproterenol; Mouse strain


19 May 2023

Comprehensive Landscape of Matrix Metalloproteinases in the Pathogenesis of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a progressive, chronic interstitial lung disease with unknown etiology. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are involved in fibrotic lung tissues, contributing to the initiation, progression, or resolution of chronic inflammatory disease. In present study, comprehensive changes of MMPs expressions were investigated in IPF by integrative analysis of single-cell transcriptome and bulk transcriptome data. 24 of MMPs were altered and the changes could significantly distinguish IPF from normal subjects and other lung diseases. Among them, MMP1, MMP7 and MMP19 were closely associated to lung functions, susceptibility and alveolar surface density. MMP1 and MMP7 as potential diagnostic indicators, MMP1 and MMP19 as prognostic markers in IPF could accurately predict disease progression. Devolution of MMPs at single-cell resolution, MMP19 was highly expressed in macrophages and markedly interfered with TNF signaling pathway which synchronizes fibrotic microenvironment. MMP19+ macrophages were significantly different from MMP19- macrophages in energy metabolism and immune function. The interaction of MMP19+ macrophages with hyperplastic AT2 was mediated by TNFSF12-TNFRSF12A, and further activated the TNFRSF12A receptor to affect cell glucose metabolism and mitochondrial function. In summary, MMPs has great application potential in the diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of IPF.

Keywords: Matrix metalloproteinases; Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis; RNA-seq, Macrophage


21 March 2023

Established Hepatic Stellate Cell Lines in Hepatology Research

Hepatic stellate cells comprise a minor cell population in the liver that plays a key role in the pathogenesis of hepatic fibrosis. In chronic liver damage, they undergo a transition from a quiescent to a highly proliferative phenotype with the capacity to synthesize large quantities of extracellular matrix compounds such as collagens. Because of their pivotal role in liver disease pathogenesis, this hepatic cell population has become into the focus of liver research for many years. However, the isolation of these cells is time consuming and requires trained laboratory personnel. In addition, working with primary cells requires the following of ethical and legal standards that need to be approved by the respective authorities. Therefore, continuous growing hepatic stellate cells have become very popular in research laboratories because they are widely available, easy to handle, allow a continuous supply of materials, and further allow reduction of lab animal use in biomedical research. This communication provides some general information about immortalized hepatic stellate cell lines from mouse, rats and humans.

Keywords: Cell culture; Cell lines; Hepatic stellate cells; Myofibroblasts; Liver; Fibrosis; In vitro; Translational research


07 March 2023

Pulsed Ultraviolet C as a Potential Treatment for COVID-19

Currently, low dose radiotherapy (LDRT) is being tested for treating life-threatening pneumonia in COVID-19 patients. Despite the debates over the clinical use of LDRT, some clinical trials have been completed, and most are still ongoing. Ultraviolet C (UVC) irradiation has been proven to be highly efficient in inactivating the coronaviruses, yet is considerably safer than LDRT. This makes UVC an excellent candidate for treating COVID-19 infection, especially in case of severe pneumonia as well as the post COVID-19 pulmonary fibrosis. However, the major challenge in using UVC is its delivery to the lungs, the target organ of COVID-19, due to its low penetrability through biological tissues. We propose to overcome this challenge (i) by using pulsed UVC technologies which dramatically increase the penetrability of UVC through matter, and (ii) by integrating the pulsed UVC technologies into a laser bronchoscope, thus allowing UVC irradiation to reach deeper into the lungs. Although the exact characteristics of such a treatment should yet to be experimentally defined, this approach might be much safer and not less efficient than LDRT.

Keywords: UVC; Coronavirus 2 (SARS‑CoV‑2); COVID-19; Fibrosis; Optic fibers; Laser bronchoscope