Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a chronic fibroproliferative pulmonary disorder for which there are currently no treatments. Although the etiology of IPF is unknown, dysregulated TGF-β signaling has been implicated in its pathogenesis. Recent studies also suggest a central role for abnormal epithelial repair. In this study, we sought to elucidate the function of epithelial TGF-β signaling via TGF-β receptor II (TβRII) and its contribution to fibrosis by generating mice in which TβRII was specifically inactivated in mouse lung epithelium. These mice, which are referred to herein as TβRIINkx2.1-cre mice, were used to determine the impact of TβRII inactivation on (a) embryonic lung morphogenesis in vivo; and (b) the epithelial cell response to TGF-β signaling in vitro and in a bleomycin-induced, TGF-β–mediated mouse model of pulmonary fibrosis. Although postnatally viable with no discernible abnormalities in lung morphogenesis and epithelial cell differentiation, TβRIINkx2.1-cre mice developed emphysema, suggesting a requirement for epithelial TβRII in alveolar homeostasis. Absence of TβRII increased phosphorylation of Smad2 and decreased, but did not entirely block, phosphorylation of Smad3 in response to endogenous/physiologic TGF-β. However, TβRIINkx2.1-cre mice exhibited increased survival and resistance to bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis. To our knowledge, these findings are the first to demonstrate a specific role for TGF-β signaling in the lung epithelium in the pathogenesis of pulmonary fibrosis.
Min Li, Manda Sai Krishnaveni, Changgong Li, Beiyun Zhou, Yiming Xing, Agnes Banfalvi, Aimin Li, Vincent Lombardi, Omid Akbari, Zea Borok, Parviz Minoo