Increased production of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α and matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) is a feature of inflammatory lung diseases, including emphysema and fibrosis, but the divergent pathological characteristics that result indicate involvement of other processes in disease pathogenesis. Transgenic mice overexpressing TNF-α in type II alveolar epithelial cells under the control of the surfactant protein (SP)-C promoter develop pulmonary inflammation and emphysema but are resistant to induction of fibrosis by administration of bleomycin or transforming growth factor-β. To study the molecular mechanisms underlying the development of this phenotype, we used a microarray approach to characterize the pulmonary transcriptome of SP-C/TNF-α mice and wild-type littermates. Four-month-old SP-C/TNF-α mice displayed pronounced pulmonary inflammation, airspace enlargement, increased MMP-2 and MMP-9 levels, and altered expression of 2332 probes. The functional assessment of genes with increased expression revealed enrichment of inflammatory/immune responses and proteases, whereas genes involved in protease inhibition, angiogenesis, cross-linking of basement membrane proteins, and myofibroblast differentiation were predominantly decreased. Comparison with multiple lung disease models identified a set of genes unique to the SP-C/TNF-α model and revealed that lack of extracellular matrix production distinguished SP-C/TNF-α mice from fibrosis models. Activation of inflammatory and proteolytic pathways and disruption of maintenance and repair processes are central features of emphysema in this TNF-overexpression model. Impairment of myofibroblast differentiation and extracellular matrix production may underlie resistance to induction of fibrosis.
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