Lung tissues in patients with systemic sclerosis have gene expression patterns unique to pulmonary fibrosis and pulmonary hypertension

Arthritis Rheum. 2011 Mar;63(3):783-94. doi: 10.1002/art.30159.


Objective: Pulmonary complications, including pulmonary fibrosis (PF) and pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), are the leading cause of mortality in patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc). The aim of this study was to compare the molecular fingerprint of lung tissue and matching primary fibroblasts from patients with SSc with that of lung tissue and fibroblasts from normal donors, patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), and patients with idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (IPAH).

Methods: Lung tissue samples were obtained from 33 patients with SSc who underwent lung transplantation. Tissues and cells from a subgroup of SSc patients with predominantly PF or PAH were compared to those from normal donors, patients with IPF, and patients with IPAH. Microarray data were analyzed using efficiency analysis for determination of the optimal data-processing methods. Real-time polymerase chain reaction and immunohistochemistry were used to confirm differential levels of messenger RNA and protein, respectively.

Results: Consensus efficiency analysis identified 242 and 335 genes that were differentially expressed in lungs and primary fibroblasts, respectively. SSc-PF and IPF lungs shared enriched functional groups in genes implicated in fibrosis, insulin-like growth factor signaling, and caveolin-mediated endocytosis. Gene functional groups shared by SSc-PAH and IPAH lungs included those involved in antigen presentation, chemokine activity, and interleukin-17 signaling.

Conclusion: Using microarray analysis on carefully phenotyped SSc and comparator lung tissues, we demonstrated distinct molecular profiles in tissues and fibroblasts from patients with SSc-associated lung disease compared to idiopathic forms of lung disease. Unique molecular signatures were generated that are disease specific (SSc) and phenotype specific (PF versus PAH). These signatures provide new insights into the pathogenesis and potential therapeutic targets of SSc-related lung disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blotting, Western
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Fibroblasts / pathology
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / genetics*
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / pathology*
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / surgery
  • Lung / metabolism
  • Lung / pathology
  • Lung Transplantation
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / genetics*
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / pathology*
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / surgery
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / genetics*
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / pathology*
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / surgery
  • Transcriptome


  • RNA, Messenger