Alveolar epithelial disintegrity in pulmonary fibrosis

Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2016 Aug 1;311(2):L185-91. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00115.2016. Epub 2016 May 27.


Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a chronic lung disease characterized by progressive decline in lung function, resulting in significant morbidity and mortality. Current concepts of the pathogenesis of IPF primarily center on dysregulated epithelial cell repair and altered epithelial-mesenchymal communication and extracellular matrix deposition following chronic exposure to cigarette smoke or environmental toxins. In recent years, increasing attention has been directed toward the role of the intercellular junctional complex in determining the specific properties of epithelia in pulmonary diseases. Additionally, recent genomewide association studies suggest that specific genetic variants predictive of epithelial cell dysfunction may confer susceptibility to the development of sporadic idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. A number of genetic disorders linked to pulmonary fibrosis and familial interstitial pneumonias are associated with loss of epithelial integrity. However, the potential links between extrapulmonary clinical syndromes associated with defects in epithelial cells and the development of pulmonary fibrosis are not well understood. Here, we report a case of hereditary mucoepithelial dysplasia that presented with pulmonary fibrosis and emphysema on high-resolution computed tomography. This case illustrates a more generalizable concept of epithelial disintegrity in the development of fibrotic lung diseases, which is explored in greater detail in this review article.

Keywords: cell-cell adhesion; epithelial barrier dysfunction; epithelial junctional complex; pulmonary fibrosis.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alveolar Epithelial Cells / pathology*
  • Cell Communication
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis / genetics
  • Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis / pathology
  • Male
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed