The chronic progressive decline in lung function observed in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) appears to result from persistent nonresolving injury to the epithelium, impaired restitution of the epithelial barrier in the lung, and enhanced fibroblast activation. Thus, understanding these key mechanisms and pathways modulating both is essential to greater understanding of IPF pathogenesis. We examined the association of VEGF with the IPF disease state and preclinical models in vivo and in vitro. Tissue and circulating levels of VEGF were significantly reduced in patients with IPF, particularly in those with a rapidly progressive phenotype, compared with healthy controls. Lung-specific overexpression of VEGF significantly protected mice following intratracheal bleomycin challenge, with a decrease in fibrosis and bleomycin-induced cell death observed in the VEGF transgenic mice. In vitro, apoptotic endothelial cell–derived mediators enhanced epithelial cell injury and reduced epithelial wound closure. This process was rescued by VEGF pretreatment of the endothelial cells via a mechanism involving thrombospondin-1 (TSP1). Taken together, these data indicate beneficial roles for VEGF during lung fibrosis via modulating epithelial homeostasis through a previously unrecognized mechanism involving the endothelium.
Lynne A. Murray, David M. Habiel, Miriam Hohmann, Ana Camelo, Huilan Shang, Yang Zhou, Ana Lucia Coelho, Xueyan Peng, Mridu Gulati, Bruno Crestani, Matthew A. Sleeman, Tomas Mustelin, Meagan W. Moore, Changwan Ryu, Awo D. Osafo-Addo, Jack A. Elias, Chun G. Lee, Buqu Hu, Jose D. Herazo-Maya, Darryl A. Knight, Cory M. Hogaboam, Erica L. Herzog