Research Article: Transmembrane protease, serine 4 (TMPRSS4) is upregulated in IPF lungs and increases the fibrotic response in bleomycin-induced lung injury

Date Published: March 12, 2018

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Ana Valero-Jiménez, Joaquín Zúñiga, José Cisneros, Carina Becerril, Alfonso Salgado, Marco Checa, Ivette Buendía-Roldán, Criselda Mendoza-Milla, Miguel Gaxiola, Annie Pardo, Moisés Selman, Tim D. Oury.


Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a chronic and progressive lung disease characterized by epithelial cell activation, expansion of the fibroblast population and excessive extracellular matrix accumulation. The mechanisms are incompletely understood but evidence indicates that the deregulation of several proteases contributes to its pathogenesis. Transmembrane protease serine 4 (TMPRSS4) is a novel type II transmembrane serine protease that may promote migration and facilitate epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT), two critical processes in the pathogenesis of IPF. Thus, we hypothesized that over-expression of TMPRSS4 in the lung could promote the initiation and/or progression of IPF. In this study we first evaluated the expression and localization of TMPRSS4 in IPF lungs by real time PCR, western blot and immunohistochemistry. Then we examined the lung fibrotic response in wild-type and TMPRSS4 deficient mice using the bleomycin-induced lung injury model. We found that this protease is upregulated in IPF lungs, where was primarily expressed by epithelial and mast cells. Paralleling the findings in vivo, TMPRSS4 was expressed by alveolar and bronchial epithelial cells in vitro and unexpectedly, provoked an increase of E-cadherin. No expression was observed in normal human or IPF lung fibroblasts. The lung fibrotic response evaluated at 28 days after bleomycin injury was markedly attenuated in the haplodeficient and deficient TMPRSS4 mice. By morphology, a significant reduction of the fibrotic index was observed in KO and heterozygous mice which was confirmed by measurement of collagen content (hydroxyproline: WT: 164±21.1 μg/lung versus TMPRSS4 haploinsufficient: 110.2±14.3 μg/lung and TMPRSS4 deficient mice: 114.1±24.2 μg/lung (p<0.01). As in IPF, TMPRSS4 was also expressed in epithelial and mast cells. These findings indicate that TMPRSS4 is upregulated in IPF lungs and that may have a profibrotic role.

Partial Text

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is the most aggressive of the interstitial lung diseases (ILD), leading to respiratory failure and premature death with a median life expectancy of about three years from diagnosis [1, 2]. IPF is characterized by the abnormal activation of alveolar epithelial cells, which produce a variety of mediators causing migration, proliferation and differentiation of fibroblasts into myofibroblasts which in turn secrete large amounts of extracellular matrix resulting in abnormal remodeling of the lung architecture [1, 3, 4].

IPF is a progressive and usually deadly disease of unknown etiology and uncertain pathogenesis. In the last years, a number of metalloproteases have been implicated in its pathogenesis not only through extracellular matrix remodeling but also in the abnormal behavior of lung cells [23–25]. However, studies with other proteases are scanty.

Our results demonstrated by the first time that the cell surface trypsin-like serine protease TMPRSS4 is upregulated in IPF lungs and that the fibrotic response to bleomycin is attenuated in TMPRSS4-deficient mice suggesting a profibrotic role for this protease. However, further research is necessary to determine the mechanisms by which this enzyme contributes to enhance the lung fibrotic response.




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