Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a devastating fibrotic lung disease of unknown etiology and limited therapeutic options. In this report, we characterize what we believe is a novel CCR10+ epithelial cell population in IPF lungs. There was a significant increase in the percentage of CCR10+ epithelial cells in IPF relative to normal lung explants and their numbers significantly correlated to lung remodeling in humanized NSG mice. Cultured CCR10-enriched IPF epithelial cells promoted IPF lung fibroblast invasion and collagen 1 secretion. Single-cell RNA sequencing analysis showed distinct CCR10+ epithelial cell populations enriched for inflammatory and profibrotic transcripts. Consistently, cultured IPF but not normal epithelial cells induced lung remodeling in humanized NSG mice, where the number of CCR10+ IPF, but not normal, epithelial cells correlated with hydroxyproline concentration in the remodeled NSG lungs. A subset of IPF CCR10hi epithelial cells coexpress EphA3 and ephrin A signaling induces the expression of CCR10 by these cells. Finally, EphA3+CCR10hi epithelial cells induce more consistent lung remodeling in NSG mice relative to EphA3–CCR10lo epithelial cells. Our results suggest that targeting epithelial cells, highly expressing CCR10, may be beneficial in IPF.
David M. Habiel, Milena S. Espindola, Isabelle C. Jones, Ana Lucia Coelho, Barry Stripp, Cory M. Hogaboam