Kantonsspital St.Gallen

Transcriptomic profiling reveals disease-specific characteristics of epithelial cells in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis

Maximilian Bösch, Florent Baty, Martin Brutsche, Michael Tamm, Julien Roux, Lars Knudsen, Amiq Gazdhar, Thomas Geiser, Petra Khan & Katrin E Hostettler


Idiopathic 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.

We 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.

Our 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.

Our 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.
citation Bösch M, Baty F, Brutsche M, Tamm M, Roux J, Knudsen L, Gazdhar A, Geiser T, Khan P, Hostettler K E. Transcriptomic profiling reveals disease-specific characteristics of epithelial cells in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Respir Res 2020; 21:165.
type journal paper/review (English)
date of publishing 30-06-2020
journal title Respir Res (21/1)
ISSN electronic 1465-993X
pages 165
PubMed 32605572
DOI 10.1186/s12931-020-01414-z