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Phenotype of airway epithelial cells suggests epithelial to mesenchymal cell transition in clinically stable lung transplant recipients
  1. C Ward1,
  2. I A Forrest1,
  3. D M Murphy1,
  4. G E Johnson1,
  5. H Robertson1,
  6. T E Cawston2,
  7. A J Fisher1,
  8. J H Dark1,
  9. J L Lordan1,
  10. J A Kirby1,
  11. P A Corris1
  1. 1Applied Immunobiology and Transplantation Research Group, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Medical School, University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4HH, UK
  2. 2Musculoskeletal Research Group, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Medical School, University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4HH, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Professor P A Corris
    Applied Immunobiology and Transplantation Research Group, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Medical School, University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4HH, UK; paul.corrisncl.ac.uk

Abstract

Background: Obliterative bronchiolitis in chronic rejection of lung allografts is characterised by airway epithelial damage and fibrosis. The process whereby normal epithelium is lost and replaced by fibroblastic scar tissue is poorly understood, but recent findings suggest that epithelial cells can become fibroblasts through epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). It is hypothesised that EMT occurs in lung allografts and plays a potential role in airway remodelling.

Methods: Sixteen stable lung transplant recipients underwent bronchoscopy with bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL), endobronchial biopsies, and bronchial brushings. Biopsy sections were stained for the fibroblast marker S100A4. Brushings were cultured on collagen, stained with anti-S100A4, and examined for further EMT markers including matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) zymographic activity and epithelial invasion through collagen coated filters.

Results: A median 15% (0–48%) of the biopsy epithelium stained for S100A4 in stable lung transplant recipients and MMP-7 co-localisation was observed. In non-stimulated epithelial cultures from lung allografts, S100A4 staining was identified with MMP-2 and MMP-9 production and zymographic activity. MMP total protein and activity was increased following stimulation with transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1. Non-stimulated transplant epithelial cells were invasive and penetration of collagen coated filters increased following TGF-β1 stimulation.

Conclusions: This study provides evidence of EMT markers in lung allografts of patients without loss of lung function. The EMT process may represent a final common pathway following injury in more common diseases characterised by airway remodelling.

  • BAL, bronchoalveolar lavage
  • BOS, bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome
  • EBB, endobronchial biopsy
  • EMT, epithelial-mesenchymal transition
  • IL, interleukin
  • MMP, matrix metalloproteinase
  • NK, natural killer
  • OB, obliterative bronchiolitis
  • PBEC, primary bronchial epithelial cell
  • TGF-β1, transforming growth factor β1
  • lung transplantation
  • epithelial-mesenchymal transition
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Footnotes

  • Published Online First 21 June 2005

  • Funded by the European Respiratory Society and Medical Research Council, the University of Newcastle/Hospitals Trustees, Roche Organ Transplantation Research Foundation, the McPhail Trust, and the Dunhill Medical Trust.

  • Competing interests: none declared.

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