The roles of the myofibroblast in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Ultrastructural and immunohistochemical features of sites of active extracellular matrix synthesis

Am J Pathol. 1991 May;138(5):1257-65.


The synthesis of collagen and EIIIA-containing cellular fibronectin in certain forms of pulmonary fibrosis occurs in discrete locations: in the Masson bodies in bronchiolitis obliterans with organizing pneumonia and in focal clusters of fibroblasts (fibroblastic foci) within airspaces in usual interstitial pneumonia. These sites were examined by electron microscopy and immunohistochemistry using antibodies against cytoskeletal markers and extracellular matrix components in biopsies from three patients with bronchiolitis obliterans with organizing pneumonia and four patients with usual interstitial pneumonia. Fibroblasts of both Masson bodies and fibroblastic foci expressed vimentin and alpha smooth muscle actin but not desmin, distinguishing them from true smooth muscle. In both structures fibroblasts with well-formed actin filament bundles were aligned parallel to one another, enmeshed in a matrix of fibronectin-containing fibrils (microtendons) that linked cells and collagen bundles. Similar features characterize the phase of contraction during the healing of skin wounds. This suggests that active contractions of fibroblasts plays a role in the remodeling of the lung in pulmonary fibrosis.

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism
  • Bronchiolitis Obliterans / metabolism
  • Bronchiolitis Obliterans / pathology
  • Bronchiolitis Obliterans / physiopathology
  • Collagen / metabolism
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Cytoskeleton / ultrastructure
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism*
  • Extracellular Matrix / ultrastructure
  • Fibroblasts / pathology
  • Fibroblasts / physiology*
  • Fibronectins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / metabolism
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / pathology
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / physiopathology*
  • Vimentin / metabolism


  • Actins
  • Fibronectins
  • Vimentin
  • Collagen