Epithelial to mesenchymal transition has been suggested as a relevant contributor to pulmonary fibrosis, but how and where this complex process is triggered in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is not fully understood. Beta-tubulin-III (Tubβ3), ZEB1, and β-catenin are partially under the negative control of miR-200, a family of micro-RNAs playing a major role in epithelial to mesenchymal transition, that are reduced in experimental lung fibrosis and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. We wonder whether in situ expression of these proteins is increased in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, to better understand the significance of miR-200 feedback loop and epithelial to mesenchymal transition. We investigated the immunohistochemical and immunofluorescent expression and precise location of ZEB1, Tubβ3, and β-catenin in tissue samples from 34 idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis cases and 21 controls (5 normal lungs and 16 other interstitial lung diseases). In 100% idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis samples, the three proteins were concurrently expressed in fibroblastic foci, as well in damaged epithelial cells overlying these lesions and in pericytes within neo-angiogenesis areas. These results were also confirmed by immunofluorescence assay. In controls the abnormal expression of the three proteins was absent or limited. This is the first study that relates concurrent expression of Tubβ3, ZEB1, and β-catenin to abnormal epithelial and myofibroblast differentiation in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, providing indirect but robust evidence of miR-200 deregulation and epithelial to mesenchymal transition activation in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. The abnormal expression and localization of these proteins in bronchiolar fibro-proliferative lesions are unique for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and might represent a disease-specific marker in challenging lung biopsies.Modern Pathology advance online publication, 2 September 2016; doi:10.1038/modpathol.2016.147.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine