Role of integrin-mediated TGFbeta activation in the pathogenesis of pulmonary fibrosis

Amanda Goodwin, Gisli Jenkins
Biochemical Society Transactions 2009, 37: 849-54
IPF (idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis) is a chronic progressive disease of unknown aetiology without effective treatment. IPF is characterized by excessive collagen deposition within the lung. Recent evidence suggests that the lung epithelium plays a key role in driving the fibrotic response. The current paradigm suggests that, after epithelial injury, there is impaired epithelial proliferation and enhanced epithelial apoptosis. This in turn promotes lung fibrosis through impaired basement membrane repair and increased epithelial-mesenchymal transition. Furthermore, fibroblasts are recruited to the wounded area and adopt a myofibroblast phenotype, with the up-regulation of matrix-synthesizing genes and down-regulation of matrix-degradation genes. There is compelling evidence that the cytokine TGFbeta (transforming growth factor beta) plays a central role in this process. In normal lung, TGFbeta is maintained in an inactive state that is tightly regulated temporally and spatially. One of the major TGFbeta-activation pathways involves integrins, and the role of the (alpha)vbeta6 integrin has been particularly well described in the pathogenesis of IPF. Owing to the pleiotropic nature of TGFbeta, strategies that inhibit activation of TGFbeta in a cell- or disease-specific manner are attractive for the treatment of chronic fibrotic lung conditions. Therefore the molecular pathways that lead to integrin-mediated TGFbeta activation must be precisely defined to identify and fully exploit novel therapeutic targets that might ultimately improve the prognosis for patients with IPF.

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