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Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2013 Mar 15;304(6):L401-14. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00080.2012. Epub 2012 Dec 21.

IL-17 induces type V collagen overexpression and EMT via TGF-β-dependent pathways in obliterative bronchiolitis.

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Center for Immunobiology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA.


Obliterative bronchiolitis (OB), a fibrotic airway lesion, is the leading cause of death after lung transplantation. Type V collagen [col(V)] overexpression and IL-17-mediated anti-col(V) immunity are key contributors to OB pathogenesis. Here, we report a previously undefined role of IL-17 in inducing col(V) overexpression, leading to epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT) and subsequent OB. We observed IL-17-mediated induction of col(V) α1 chains [α1 (V)] in normal airway epithelial cells in vitro and detected α1 (V)-specific antibodies in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid of lung transplant patients. Overexpression of IL-17 and col(V) was detected in OB lesions in patient lung biopsies and in a murine OB model. IL-17 is shown to induce EMT, TGF-β mRNA expression, and SMAD3 activation, whereas downregulating SMAD7 expression in vitro. Pharmacological inhibition of TGF-βRI tyrosine kinase, p38 MAPK, or focal adhesion kinase prevented col(V) overexpression and EMT. In murine orthotopic lung transplants, neutralizing IL-17 significantly decreased TGF-β mRNA and protein expression and prevented epithelial repair/OB. Our findings highlight a feed-forward loop between IL-17 and TGF-β, leading to induction of col(V) and associated epithelial repair, thus providing one possible link between autoimmunity and OB after lung transplantation.

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