In many airway diseases, the airway epithelium is severely damaged and has to regenerate rapidly to restore its function. The regeneration process involves chronological steps of epithelial cell migration, proliferation, stratification, and differentiation. The present study has used an in vivo humanized airway xenograft model in nude mice that mimics the regeneration dynamics of human airway epithelium after severe injury, and human-specific molecular tools, to study the expression profiles of epithelial matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs)-7 and -9, of tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinase-1 (TIMP-1), and of the pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-8 (IL-8) during the different steps of human airway epithelium regeneration. It was found that during the cell migration and proliferation steps, airway epithelial cells expressed IL-8 at a high level, whereas airway epithelial pseudo-stratification and surface airway epithelial differentiation were associated with increased expression of MMPs and a progressive decrease in IL-8. Interestingly, immunohistochemical analysis revealed exclusive expression of MMPs at the apical part of the well-differentiated regenerated airway epithelium, and incubation of the regenerating epithelial cells with MMP inhibitors led to abnormal epithelial differentiation. These data provide new insight into the temporal expression of MMPs and IL-8 during the regeneration of airway epithelium and demonstrate the involvement of these factors during the different steps that lead to restoration of a well-differentiated and functional airway epithelium.
Copyright 2005 Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland