Rationale: Alveolar transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1 signaling and expression of TGF-β1 target genes are increased in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and in animal models of pulmonary fibrosis. Internalization and degradation of TGF-β receptor TβRI inhibits TGF-β signaling and could attenuate development of experimental lung fibrosis.
Objectives: To demonstrate that after experimental lung injury, human syndecan-2 confers antifibrotic effects by inhibiting TGF-β1 signaling in alveolar epithelial cells.
Methods: Microarray assays were performed to identify genes differentially expressed in alveolar macrophages of patients with IPF versus control subjects. Transgenic mice that constitutively overexpress human syndecan-2 in macrophages were developed to test the antifibrotic properties of syndecan-2. In vitro assays were performed to determine syndecan-2-dependent changes in epithelial cell TGF-β1 signaling, TGF-β1, and TβRI internalization and apoptosis. Wild-type mice were treated with recombinant human syndecan-2 during the fibrotic phase of bleomycin-induced lung injury.
Measurements and main results: We observed significant increases in alveolar macrophage syndecan-2 levels in patients with IPF. Macrophage-specific overexpression of human syndecan-2 in transgenic mice conferred antifibrotic effects after lung injury by inhibiting TGF-β1 signaling and downstream expression of TGF-β1 target genes, reducing extracellular matrix production and alveolar epithelial cell apoptosis. In vitro, syndecan-2 promoted caveolin-1-dependent internalization of TGF-β1 and TβRI in alveolar epithelial cells, which inhibited TGF-β1 signaling and epithelial cell apoptosis. Therapeutic administration of human syndecan-2 abrogated lung fibrosis in mice.
Conclusions: Alveolar macrophage syndecan-2 exerts antifibrotic effects by promoting caveolin-1-dependent TGF-β1 and TβRI internalization and inhibiting TGF-β1 signaling in alveolar epithelial cells. Hence, molecules that facilitate TβRI degradation via endocytosis represent potential therapies for pulmonary fibrosis.