NHLRC2 expression is increased in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
Kreus, Mervi; Lehtonen, Siri; Hinttala, Reetta; Salonen, Johanna; Porvari, Katja; Kaarteenaho, Riitta (2022-08-13)
Kreus, M., Lehtonen, S., Hinttala, R. et al. NHLRC2 expression is increased in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Respir Res 23, 206 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12931-022-02129-z
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Background: Variants of NHL repeat-containing protein 2 (NHLRC2) have been associated with severe fibrotic interstitial lung disease in early childhood and NHLRC2 has been listed as a differentially expressed gene between rapidly and slowly progressing idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) patients. However, its cell type-specific localization in human lung tissue is unknown. The aim of this study was to evaluate NHLRC2 mRNA and protein expression in different cell types of lung tissue samples and to investigate the effect of transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1 exposure on NHLRC2 expression in vitro.
Methods: The NHLRC2 expression in lung tissue samples was studied by immunohistochemistry (50 IPF, 10 controls) and mRNA in situ hybridization (8 IPF, 3 controls). The immunohistochemical NHLRC2 expression was quantified with image analysis software and associated with the clinical and smoking data of the patients. NHLRC2 expression levels in primary stromal and small airway epithelial cell lines after exposure to TGF-β1 was measured by quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction and Western blot analysis.
Results: NHLRC2 expression was detected especially in bronchiolar epithelial cells, type II pneumocytes and macrophages in normal lung. In the lungs of IPF patients, NHLRC2 was mainly expressed in hyperplastic alveolar epithelial cells lining fibroblast foci and honeycombs. NHLRC2 expression assessed by image analysis was higher in IPF compared to controls (p < 0.001). Ever-smokers had more prominent NHLRC2 staining than non-smokers (p = 0.037) among IPF patients. TGF-β1 exposure did not influence NHLRC2 levels in lung cell lines.
Conclusions: NHLRC2 expression was higher in IPF compared to controls being widely expressed in type II pneumocytes, macrophages, bronchiolar epithelium, and hyperplastic alveolar epithelium. Additionally, its expression was not regulated by the exposure to TGF-β1 in vitro. Further studies are needed to clarify the role of NHLRC2 in IPF.
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