The pleural mesothelium, derived from the embryonic mesoderm, is formed by a metabolically active monolayer of cells that blanket the chest wall and lungs on the parietal and visceral surfaces, respectively. The pleura and lungs are formed as a result of an intricate relationship between the mesoderm and the endoderm during development. Mesenchymal signaling pathways such as Wnt/B-catenin, Bmp4, and sonic hedgehog appear to be quintessential for lung development. Pleural Mesothelial Cells (PMCs) are known to express Wilms tumor-1 (Wt1) gene and in lineage labeling studies of the developing embryo, PMCs were found to track into the lung parenchyma and undergo mesothelial-mesenchymal transition (MMT) to form α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA)-positive cells of the mesenchyme and vasculature. There is definite evidence that mesothelial cells can differentiate and this seems to play an important role in pleural and parenchymal pathologies. Mesothelial cells can differentiate into adipocytes, chondrocytes, and osteoblasts; and have been shown to clonally generate fibroblasts and smooth muscle cells in murine models. This supports the possibility that they may also modulate lung injury-repair by re-activation of developmental programs in the adult reflecting an altered recapitulation of development, with implications for regenerative biology of the lung. In a mouse model of lung fibrosis using lineage-tracing studies, PMCs lost their polarity and cell-cell junctional complexes, migrated into lung parenchyma, and underwent phenotypic transition into myofibroblasts in response to the pro-fibrotic mediator, transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1). However, intra-pleural heme-oxygenase-1 (HO-1) induction inhibited PMC migration after intra-tracheal fibrogenic injury. Intra-pleural fluorescein isothiocyanate labeled nanoparticles decorated with a surface antibody to mesothelin, a surface marker of mesothelial cells, migrate into the lung parenchyma with PMCs supporting a potential role for pleural based therapies to modulate pleural mesothelial activation and parenchymal disease progression.
Keywords: Wilms tumor-1 (WT1); epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT); idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF); pleural mesothelial cells; pleural mesothelium.