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Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2011 Dec;45(6):1256-62. doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2011-0065OC. Epub 2011 Jul 14.

Genomic differences distinguish the myofibroblast phenotype of distal lung fibroblasts from airway fibroblasts.

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University of Pittsburgh Asthma Institute, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.


Primary human distal lung/parenchymal fibroblasts (DLFs) exhibit a different phenotype from airway fibroblasts (AFs), including the expression of high levels of α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA). The scope of the differences between these anatomically differentiated fibroblasts, or the mechanisms driving them, has remained unknown. To determine whether the different characteristics of regional fibroblasts are predicted by distinct genomic differences in AFs versus DLFs, matched human fibroblast pairs were isolated from proximal and distal lung tissue and evaluated. Microarray analysis was performed on 12 matched fibroblast pairs (four normal and eight asthmatic samples) and validated by quantitative real-time PCR. The potential functional implications of these differences were analyzed using computational approaches. Four hundred seventy-four transcripts were up-regulated in AFs, and 611 were up-regulated in DLFs via microarray analysis. No differences in normal and asthmatic fibroblasts were evident, and the data were combined for subsequent analyses. Gene ontology and network analyses suggested distinct patterns of pathway activation between AFs and DLFs. The up-regulation of extracellular matrix-associated molecules in AFs was observed, whereas genes associated with actin binding and cytoskeletal organization were up-regulated in DLFs. The up-regulation of activated/total SMAD3 and c-Jun N-terminal kinase in DLFs may partly explain these myofibroblast-like characteristics in DLFs. Thus, marked genomic differences exist between these two populations of regional lung fibroblasts. These striking differences may help identify potential mechanisms by which AFs and DLFs differ in their responses to injury, regeneration, and remodeling in the lung.

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