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Histol Histopathol. 1996 Apr;11(2):463-83.

Alterations in the alveolar epithelium after injury leading to pulmonary fibrosis.

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  • 1Institute of Pathology, Technical University of Dresden, Germany.


This review discusses current knowledge of the involvement of the alveolar epithelium in tissue remodelling during fibrogenesis. The purpose of the present paper is to give an overview, including the authors' own results, of knowledge of ultrastructural alterations, proliferation kinetics and phenotypic changes of pneumocytes in experimental and clinical pathology of pulmonary fibrosis. After lung injury, the alveolar epithelial cells show ultrastructural alterations, hypertrophy and hyperplasia, and a modulation of a series of structural and membrane proteins such as cytoskeletal changes, loss or de novo expression of epithelial adhesion molecules, and altered lectin binding. Furthermore, enhanced secretion of proteases, of cytokines and other soluble factors can be observed in the alveolar epithelium. These findings suggest the contribution of the epithelium in the remodelling process to be greater than expected. Estimations of the cell kinetics show that type II pneumocytes have the proliferative capacity to restore high proportions of damaged type I cells within few hours. In fibrosis this capacity also seems to be affected seriously, resulting in transitional phenotypes between type II and type I cells. Additionally, in the light of the detection of CD44 type of adhesion molecules at the foot processes of type II pneumocytes, some aspects of epithelial-fibroblast interaction are described.

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