Sulfatases are determinants of alveolar formation

Matrix Biol. 2012 May;31(4):253-60. doi: 10.1016/j.matbio.2012.02.001. Epub 2012 Feb 18.


Alveolar formation or alveolarization is orchestrated by a finely regulated and complex interaction between growth factors and extracellular matrix proteins. The lung parenchyma contains various extracellular matrix proteins including proteoglycans, which are composed of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) linked to a protein core. Although GAGs are known to regulate growth factor distribution and activity according to their degree of sulfation the role of sulfated GAG in the respiratory system is not well understood. The degree of sulfation of GAGs is regulated in part, by sulfatases that remove sulfate groups. In vertebrates, the enzyme Sulfatase-Modifying Factor 1 (Sumf1) activates all sulfatases. Here we utilized mice lacking Sumf1(-/-) to study the importance of proteoglycan desulfation in lung development. The Sumf1(-/-) mice have normal lungs up until the onset of alveolarization at post-natal day 5 (P5). We detected increased deposition of sulfated GAG throughout the lung parenchyma and a decrease in alveolar septa formation. Moreover, stereological analysis showed that the alveolar volume is 20% larger in Sumf1(-/-) as compared to wild type (WT) mice at P10 and P30. Additionally, pulmonary function test was consistent with increased alveolar volume. Genetic experiments demonstrate that in Sumf1(-/-) mice arrest of alveolarization is independent of fibroblast growth factor signaling. In turn, the Sumf1(-/-) mice have increased transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) signaling and in vivo injection of TGFβ neutralizing antibody leads to normalization of alveolarization. Thus, absence of sulfatase activity increases sulfated GAG deposition in the lungs causing deregulation of TGFβ signaling and arrest of alveolarization.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / pharmacology
  • Embryo, Mammalian / embryology
  • Embryo, Mammalian / metabolism
  • Embryo, Mammalian / pathology
  • Embryonic Development
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Fibroblast Growth Factors / metabolism
  • Glycosaminoglycans / metabolism*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mice
  • Oxidoreductases Acting on Sulfur Group Donors
  • Proteoglycans / metabolism*
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / drug effects
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / enzymology
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / pathology*
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Sulfatases / metabolism*
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / pharmacology


  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Glycosaminoglycans
  • Proteoglycans
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Fibroblast Growth Factors
  • Oxidoreductases Acting on Sulfur Group Donors
  • Sumf1 protein, mouse
  • Sulfatases