Background: The transition from normal lung anatomy to minimal and established fibrosis is an important feature of the pathology of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). The purpose of this report is to examine the molecular and cellular mechanisms associated with this transition.
Methods: Pre-operative thoracic Multidetector Computed Tomography (MDCT) scans of patients with severe IPF (n = 9) were used to identify regions of minimal(n = 27) and established fibrosis(n = 27). MDCT, Micro-CT, quantitative histology, and next-generation sequencing were used to compare 24 samples from donor controls (n = 4) to minimal and established fibrosis samples.
Findings: The present results extended earlier reports about the transition from normal lung anatomy to minimal and established fibrosis by showing that there are activations of TGFBI, T cell co-stimulatory genes, and the down-regulation of inhibitory immune-checkpoint genes compared to controls. The expression patterns of these genes indicated activation of a field immune response, which is further supported by the increased infiltration of inflammatory immune cells dominated by lymphocytes that are capable of forming lymphoid follicles. Moreover, fibrosis pathways, mucin secretion, surfactant, TLRs, and cytokine storm-related genes also participate in the transitions from normal lung anatomy to minimal and established fibrosis.
Interpretation: The transition from normal lung anatomy to minimal and established fibrosis is associated with genes that are involved in the tissue repair processes, the activation of immune responses as well as the increased infiltration of CD4, CD8, B cell lymphocytes, and macrophages. These molecular and cellular events correlate with the development of structural abnormality of IPF and probably contribute to its pathogenesis.
Keywords: IPF; Integrative analysis; MDCT; Micro-CT; Quantitative histology; RNAseq.
Copyright © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.