Higher susceptibility of males to bleomycin-induced pulmonary inflammation is associated with sex-specific transcriptomic differences in myeloid cells

Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2022 Nov 1:454:116228. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2022.116228. Epub 2022 Sep 8.


Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a condition with likely genetic and environmental etiology, is relatively more prevalent with poor prognosis in human males. However, the underlying mechanisms for these gender-associated differences in the severity of fibrosis remain unknown. Here, we tested the hypothesis that the transcriptomic repertoire of myeloid cells determines the higher susceptibility of male mice to bleomycin (BLM)-induced lung fibrosis. Adult mice were oropharyngeally challenged with saline or BLM. Lung injury, inflammation, and fibrosis outcomes were assessed, and airspace myeloid-cells were subjected to RNA-sequencing. As compared with the female mice, the male mice manifested significantly increased lung injury, inflammation, proinflammatory cytokines (IL-6, IL-1β, IL-7, and IP-10), and fibrosis in response to BLM challenge. Interestingly, several pro-inflammatory and extracellular matrix-associated genes were significantly up-regulated in male myeloid-cells compared to female myeloid-cells in the saline-control group. Similarly, BLM challenge resulted in greater pro-inflammatory and pro-fibrotic transcriptomic changes in male compared to female myeloid cells. On the other hand, anti-inflammatory and regulatory cytokine, Il10 and Ifng respectively, were uniquely upregulated in BLM-challenged female but not in male myeloid cells when compared to their respective saline-control groups. Further, cross-sex bone marrow transplantation experiments revealed that male hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPCs) increased the granulocytic infiltration in female mice while female HPCs decreased the granulocytic infiltration in male mice post-BLM challenge. These findings suggest that there are inherent transcriptomic differences between the male and female lung myeloid cells and that the pro-inflammatory nature of male myeloid cells is sufficient to increase the susceptibility of female mice to BLM-induced inflammation.

Keywords: Bleomycin; Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis; Inflammation; Myeloid-cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Bleomycin / toxicity
  • Chemokine CXCL10 / adverse effects
  • Cytokines
  • Female
  • Fibrosis
  • Humans
  • Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis* / pathology
  • Inflammation / chemically induced
  • Inflammation / drug therapy
  • Inflammation / genetics
  • Interleukin-10
  • Interleukin-6
  • Interleukin-7
  • Lung
  • Lung Injury* / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Myeloid Cells
  • Pneumonia* / chemically induced
  • RNA
  • Transcriptome


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Chemokine CXCL10
  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-6
  • Interleukin-7
  • Bleomycin
  • Interleukin-10
  • RNA