Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) is a deadly disease with limited therapies. Tissue fibrosis is associated with Type 2 immune response, although the causal contribution of immune cells is not defined. The AP-1 transcription factor Fra-2 is upregulated in IPF lung sections and Fra-2 transgenic mice (Fra-2tg) exhibit spontaneous lung fibrosis. Here we show that Bleomycin-induced lung fibrosis is attenuated upon myeloid-inactivation of Fra-2 and aggravated in Fra-2tg bone marrow chimeras. Type VI collagen (ColVI), a Fra-2 transcriptional target, is up-regulated in three lung fibrosis models, and macrophages promote myofibroblast activation in vitro in a ColVI- and Fra-2-dependent manner. Fra-2 or ColVI inactivation does not affect macrophage recruitment and alternative activation, suggesting that Fra-2/ColVI specifically controls the paracrine pro-fibrotic activity of macrophages. Importantly, ColVI knock-out mice (KO) and ColVI-KO bone marrow chimeras are protected from Bleomycin-induced lung fibrosis. Therapeutic administration of a Fra-2/AP-1 inhibitor reduces ColVI expression and ameliorates fibrosis in Fra-2tg mice and in the Bleomycin model. Finally, Fra-2 and ColVI positively correlate in IPF patient samples and co-localize in lung macrophages. Therefore, the Fra-2/ColVI pro-fibrotic axis is a promising biomarker and therapeutic target for lung fibrosis, and possibly other fibrotic diseases.
Keywords: Collagens; Fibrosis; Inflammation; Macrophages; Pulmonology.