Distribution of epidermal growth factor receptor and ligands during bronchiolar epithelial repair from naphthalene-induced Clara cell injury in the mouse

Am J Pathol. 1997 Aug;151(2):443-59.


Clara cells are primary targets for metabolically activated pulmonary toxicants because they contain an abundance of the cytochrome P450 monooxygenases required for generation of toxic metabolites. The factors that regulate bronchiolar regeneration after Clara cell injury are not known. Previous studies of naphthalene-induced bronchiolar injury and repair in the mouse have shown that epithelial cell proliferation is maximal 1 to 2 days after injury and complete 4 days after injury. Proliferation is followed by epithelial re-differentiation (4 to 14 days). In this study, mice were treated with the environmental pollutant naphthalene to induce massive Clara cell injury. The distribution and abundance of three growth-regulatory peptides (epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), epidermal growth factor (EGF), and transforming growth factor (TGF)-alpha) was determined immunochemically during repair of this acute bronchiolar injury. EGFR and its ligands were detected at low levels in cells throughout the lung including peribronchiolar interstitial cells, blood vessels, and conducting airway epithelium. Immediately after naphthalene injury (1 to 2 days), EGFR, EGF, and TGF-alpha are expressed in increased abundance in squamous epithelial cells of the injury target zone, distal bronchioles. These immunopositive squamous cells are detected in clumps in the distal bronchioles at the time when cell proliferation is maximal. EGFR protein expression is decreased slightly 4 to 7 days after injury and continues to decrease below control levels of abundance 14 to 21 days after injury. This down-regulation of EGFR is not reflected in a corresponding decrease in EGF and TGF-alpha protein expression, indicating that control of cell proliferation is regulated at the receptor level. Co-localization of EGFR and bromodeoxyuridine-positive proliferating cells in the same bronchiole indicates that EGFR is up-regulated within the proliferative microenvironment as well as in specific proliferating cells within the injury target zone. The coincident localization within terminal bronchioles of EGFR, EGF, and TGF-alpha to groups of squamous epithelial cells 2 days after naphthalene injury suggests that these peptides are important in up-regulating cell proliferation after Clara cell injury in the mouse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bronchi / drug effects*
  • Bronchi / injuries
  • Bronchi / metabolism*
  • Epidermal Growth Factor / metabolism*
  • Epithelium / drug effects
  • Epithelium / injuries
  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • ErbB Receptors / metabolism*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Naphthalenes / toxicity*
  • Transforming Growth Factor alpha / metabolism*
  • Wound Healing


  • Naphthalenes
  • Transforming Growth Factor alpha
  • naphthalene
  • Epidermal Growth Factor
  • ErbB Receptors