Hippo/YAP signaling plays pleiotropic roles in the regulation of cell proliferation and differentiation during organogenesis and tissue repair. Herein we demonstrate increased YAP activity in respiratory epithelial cells in lungs of patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a common, lethal form of interstitial lung disease (ILD). Immunofluorescence staining in IPF epithelial cells demonstrated increased nuclear YAP and loss of MST1/2. Bioinformatic analyses of epithelial cell RNA profiles predicted increased activity of YAP and increased canonical mTOR/PI3K/AKT signaling in IPF. Phospho-S6 (p-S6) and p-PTEN were increased in IPF epithelial cells, consistent with activation of mTOR signaling. Expression of YAP (S127A), a constitutively active form of YAP, in human bronchial epithelial cells (HBEC3s) increased p-S6 and p-PI3K, cell proliferation and migration, processes that were inhibited by the YAP-TEAD inhibitor verteporfin. Activation of p-S6 was required for enhancing and stabilizing YAP, and the p-S6 inhibitor temsirolimus blocked nuclear YAP localization and suppressed expression of YAP target genes CTGF, AXL, and AJUBA (JUB). YAP and mTOR/p-S6 signaling pathways interact to induce cell proliferation and migration, and inhibit epithelial cell differentiation that may contribute to the pathogenesis of IPF.
Jason J. Gokey, Anusha Sridharan, Yan Xu, Jenna Green, Gianni Carraro, Barry R. Stripp, Anne-Karina T. Perl, Jeffrey A. Whitsett