Epithelial⁻Mesenchymal Transition in the Pathogenesis of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis

Medicina (Kaunas). 2019 Mar 28;55(4):83. doi: 10.3390/medicina55040083.


Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a serious disease of the lung, which leads to extensive parenchymal scarring and death from respiratory failure. The most accepted hypothesis for IPF pathogenesis relies on the inability of the alveolar epithelium to regenerate after injury. Alveolar epithelial cells become apoptotic and rare, fibroblasts/myofibroblasts accumulate and extracellular matrix (ECM) is deposited in response to the aberrant activation of several pathways that are physiologically implicated in alveologenesis and repair but also favor the creation of excessive fibrosis via different mechanisms, including epithelial⁻mesenchymal transition (EMT). EMT is a pathophysiological process in which epithelial cells lose part of their characteristics and markers, while gaining mesenchymal ones. A role for EMT in the pathogenesis of IPF has been widely hypothesized and indirectly demonstrated; however, precise definition of its mechanisms and relevance has been hindered by the lack of a reliable animal model and needs further studies. The overall available evidence conceptualizes EMT as an alternative cell and tissue normal regeneration, which could open the way to novel diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers, as well as to more effective treatment options.

Keywords: UIP; epithelial mesenchymal transition; idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis; lung repair; myofibroblasts.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition*
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis / pathology*
  • Mice
  • Myofibroblasts / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism


  • Transforming Growth Factor beta