Aberrant Wnt/β-catenin pathway activation in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis

Marco Chilosi, Venerino Poletti, Alberto Zamò, Maurizio Lestani, Licia Montagna, Paola Piccoli, Serena Pedron, Manuela Bertaso, Aldo Scarpa, Bruno Murer, Alessandra Cancellier, Roberta Maestro, Gianpietro Semenzato, Claudio Doglioni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To investigate the molecular events that may underpin dysfunctional repair processes that characterize idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis/usual interstitial pneumonia (IPF/UIP), we analyzed the expression patterns of β-catenin on 20 IPF/UIP lung samples, together with two downstream target genes of Wnt signaling, cyclin-D1, and matrilysin. In 18 of 20 cases of IPF/UIP investigated on serial sections, nuclear β-catenin immunoreactivity and abnormal levels of cyclin-D1 and matrilysin were demonstrated in proliferative bronchiolar lesions (basal-cell hyperplasia, squamous metaplasia, bronchiolization, honeycombing). The nature of these lesions was precisely defined using specific markers (ΔN-p63, surfactant-protein-A, cytokeratin-5). Interestingly, nuclear β-catenin accumulation was also demonstrated in fibroblast foci in most (16 of 20) IPF/UIP samples, often associated with bronchiolar lesions. Similar features were not observed in normal lung and other fibrosing pulmonary diseases (diffuse alveolar damage, organizing pneumonia, nonspecific interstitial pneumonia, desquamative interstitial pneumonia). Sequence analysis performed on DNA extracted from three samples of IPF/UIP did not reveal abnormalities affecting the β-catenin gene. On the basis of these findings new models for IPF/UIP pathogenesis can be hypothesized, centered on the aberrant activation of Wnt/βcatenin signaling, with eventual triggering of divergent epithelial regeneration at bronchiolo-alveolar junctions and epithelial-mesenchymal-transitions, leading to severe and irreversible remodeling of the pulmonary tissue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1495-1502
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Pathology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

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