BackgroundIdiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is an incurable disease characterized by progressive lung fibrosis ultimately resulting in respiratory failure and death. Recurrent micro-injuries to the alveolar epithelium and aberrant alveolar wound healing with impaired re-epithelialization define the initial steps of the pathogenic trajectory. Failure of timely alveolar epithelial repair triggers hyper-proliferation of mesenchymal cells accompanied by increased deposition of extracellular matrix into the lung interstitium.
MethodsWe previously isolated fibrosis-specific mesenchymal stem cell (MSC)-like cells from lung tissue of patients with interstitial lung diseases. These cells produced factors bearing anti-fibrotic potential and changed their morphology from mesenchymal to epithelial upon culture in an epithelial cell (EC)-specific growth medium. Here, we set out to molecularly characterize these MSC-like cell-derived ECs using global gene expression profiling by RNA-sequencing. Moreover, we aimed at characterizing disease-specific differences by comparing the transcriptomes of ECs from IPF and non-IPF sources.
ResultsOur results suggest that differentially expressed genes are enriched for factors related to fibrosis, hypoxia, bacterial colonization and metabolism, thus reflecting many of the hallmark characteristics of pulmonary fibrosis. IPF-ECs showed enrichment of both pro- and anti-fibrotic genes, consistent with the notion of adaptive, compensatory regulation.
ConclusionsOur findings support the hypothesis of a functional impairment of IPF-ECs, which could possibly explain the poor clinical outcome of IPF that roughly compares to those of advanced-stage cancers. Our study provides a valuable resource for downstream mechanistic investigation and the quest for novel therapeutic IPF targets.
SUBMITTER: Boesch M