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Am J Pathol. 2012 May;180(5):1963-78. doi: 10.1016/j.ajpath.2012.01.010. Epub 2012 Mar 16.

Cytokine-like factor 1 gene expression is enriched in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and drives the accumulation of CD4+ T cells in murine lungs: evidence for an antifibrotic role in bleomycin injury.

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Dorothy P. and Richard P. Simmons Center for Interstitial Lung Disease and the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213, USA.


Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a progressive and typically fatal lung disease. To gain insight into the pathogenesis of IPF, we reanalyzed our previously published gene expression data profiling IPF lungs. Cytokine receptor-like factor 1 (CRLF1) was among the most highly up-regulated genes in IPF lungs, compared with normal controls. The protein product (CLF-1) and its partner, cardiotrophin-like cytokine (CLC), function as members of the interleukin 6 (IL-6) family of cytokines. Because of earlier work implicating IL-6 family members in IPF pathogenesis, we tested whether CLF-1 expression contributes to inflammation in experimental pulmonary fibrosis. In IPF, we detected CLF-1 expression in both type II alveolar epithelial cells and macrophages. We found that the receptor for CLF-1/CLC signaling, ciliary neurotrophic factor receptor (CNTFR), was expressed only in type II alveolar epithelial cells. Administration of CLF-1/CLC to both uninjured and bleomycin-injured mice led to the pulmonary accumulation of CD4(+) T cells. We also found that CLF-1/CLC administration increased inflammation but decreased pulmonary fibrosis. CLF-1/CLC leads to significantly enriched expression of T-cell-derived chemokines and cytokines, including the antifibrotic cytokine interferon-γ. We propose that, in IPF, CLF-1 is a selective stimulus of type II alveolar epithelial cells and may potentially drive an antifibrotic response by augmenting both T-helper-1-driven and T-regulatory-cell-driven inflammatory responses in the lung.

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