Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) is a leading complication of premature birth and occurs primarily in infants delivered during the saccular stage of lung development. Histopathology shows decreased alveolarization and a pattern of fibroblast proliferation and differentiation to the myofibroblast phenotype. Little is known about the molecular pathways and cellular mechanisms that define BPD pathophysiology and progression. We have developed a novel three-dimensional human model of the fibroblast activation associated with BPD, and using this model we have identified the Notch pathway as a key driver of fibroblast activation and proliferation in response to changes in oxygen. Fetal lung fibroblasts were cultured on sodium alginate beads to generate lung organoids. After exposure to alternating hypoxia and hyperoxia, the organoids developed a phenotypic response characterized by increased α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) expression and other genes known to be upregulated in BPD and also demonstrated increased expression of downstream effectors of the Notch pathway. Inhibition of Notch with a γ-secretase inhibitor prevented the development of the pattern of cellular proliferation and α-SMA expression in our model. Analysis of human autopsy tissue from the lungs of infants who expired with BPD demonstrated evidence of Notch activation within fibrotic areas of the alveolar septae, suggesting that Notch may be a key driver of BPD pathophysiology.
- disease modeling
- lung prematurity
- signaling pathways
- Copyright © 2016 the American Physiological Society
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