Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) represents a worldwide concern with high morbidity and mortality, and is believed to be associated with accelerated ageing of the lung. Alveolar abnormalities leading to emphysema are a key characteristic of COPD. Pulmonary alveolar epithelial type 2 cells (AT2) produce surfactant and function as progenitors for type 1 cells. Increasing evidence shows elevated WNT-5A/B expression in ageing and in COPD that may contribute to the disease process. However, supportive roles for WNT-5A/B in lung regeneration were also reported in different studies. Thus, we explored the role of WNT-5A/B on alveolar epithelial progenitors (AEPs) in more detail. We established a Precision-Cut-Lung Slices (PCLS) model and a lung organoid model by co-culturing epithelial cells (EpCAM+/CD45-/CD31-) with fibroblasts in matrigel in vitro to study the impact of WNT-5A and WNT-5B. Our results show that WNT-5A and WNT-5B repress the growth of epithelial progenitors with WNT-5B preferentially restraining the growth and differentiation of alveolar epithelial progenitors. We provide evidence that both WNT-5A and WNT-5B negatively regulate the canonical WNT signaling pathway in alveolar epithelium. Taken together, these findings reveal the functional impact of WNT-5A/5B signaling on alveolar epithelial progenitors in the lung, which may contribute to defective alveolar repair in COPD.
Keywords: WNT signaling pathway; WNT-5A; WNT-5B; alveolar repair; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); lung organoids; precision-cut-lung slices (PCLS).