Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a severe fibrotic lung disease associated with fibroblast activation that includes excessive proliferation, tissue invasiveness, myofibroblast transformation, and extracellular matrix (ECM) production. To identify inhibitors that can attenuate fibroblast activation, we queried IPF gene signatures against a library of small-molecule-induced gene-expression profiles and identified Hsp90 inhibitors as potential therapeutic agents that can suppress fibroblast activation in IPF. Although Hsp90 is a molecular chaperone that regulates multiple processes involved in fibroblast activation, it has not been previously proposed as a molecular target in IPF. Here, we found elevated Hsp90 staining in lung biopsies of patients with IPF. Notably, fibroblasts isolated from fibrotic lesions showed heightened Hsp90 ATPase activity compared with normal fibroblasts. 17-N-allylamino-17-demethoxygeldanamycin (17-AAG), a small-molecule inhibitor of Hsp90 ATPase activity, attenuated fibroblast activation and also TGF-β–driven effects on fibroblast to myofibroblast transformation. The loss of the Hsp90AB, but not the Hsp90AA isoform, resulted in reduced fibroblast proliferation, myofibroblast transformation, and ECM production. Finally, in vivo therapy with 17-AAG attenuated progression of established and ongoing fibrosis in a mouse model of pulmonary fibrosis, suggesting that targeting Hsp90 represents an effective strategy for the treatment of fibrotic lung disease.


Vishwaraj Sontake, Yunguan Wang, Rajesh K. Kasam, Debora Sinner, Geereddy B. Reddy, Anjaparavanda P. Naren, Francis X. McCormack, Eric S. White, Anil G. Jegga, Satish K. Madala


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