The maintenance of a progenitor cell population as a reservoir of undifferentiated cells is required for organ development and regeneration. However, the mechanisms by which epithelial progenitor cells are maintained during organogenesis are poorly understood. We report that removal of the parasympathetic ganglion in mouse expiant organ culture decreased the number and morphogenesis of keratin 5-positive epithelial progenitor cells. These effects were rescued with an acetylcholine analog. We demonstrate that acetylcholine signaling, via the muscarinic M 1 receptor and epidermal growth factor receptor, increased epithelial morphogenesis and proliferation of the keratin 5-positive progenitor cells. Parasympathetic innervation maintained the epithelial progenitor cell population in an undifferentiated state, which was required for organogénesis. This mechanism for epithelial progenitor cell maintenance may be targeted for organ repair or regeneration.
Barrier tissue dysfunction is a fundamental feature of chronic human inflammatory diseases(1). Specialized subsets of epithelial cells-including secretory and ciliated cells-differentiate from basal stem cells to collectively protect the upper airway(2-4). Allergic inflammation can develop from persistent activation(5) of type 2 immunity(6) in the upper airway, resulting in chronic rhinosinusitis, which ranges in severity from rhinitis to severe nasal polyps(7). Basal cell hyperplasia is a hallmark of severe disease(7-9), but it is not known how these progenitor cells(2,10,11) contribute to clinical presentation and barrier tissue dysfunction in humans. Here we profile primary human surgical chronic rhinosinusitis samples (18,036 cells, n = 12) that span the disease spectrum using Seq-Well for massively parallel single-cell RNA sequencing(12), report transcriptomes for human respiratory epithelial, immune and stromal cell types and subsets from a type 2 inflammatory disease, and map key mediators. By comparison with nasal scrapings (18,704 cells, n = 9), we define signatures of core, healthy, inflamed and polyp secretory cells. We reveal marked differences between the epithelial compartments of the non-polyp and polyp cellular ecosystems, identifying and validating a global reduction in cellular diversity of polyps characterized by basal cell hyperplasia, concomitant decreases in glandular cells, and phenotypic shifts in secretory cell antimicrobial expression. We detect an aberrant basal progenitor differentiation trajectory in polyps, and propose cell-intrinsic(13), epigenetic(14,15) and extrinsic factors(11,16,17) that lock polyp basal cells into this uncommitted state. Finally, we functionally demonstrate that ex vivo cultured basal cells retain intrinsic memory of IL-4/IL-13 exposure, and test the potential for clinical blockade of the IL-4 receptor alpha-subunit to modify basal and secretory cell states in vivo. Overall, we find that reduced epithelial diversity stemming from functional shifts in basal cells is a key characteristic of type 2 immune-mediated barrier tissue dysfunction. Our results demonstrate that epithelial stem cells may contribute to the persistence of human disease by serving as repositories for allergic memories.
The thymus is essential for the generation of self-tolerant effector and regulatory T cells. Intrathymic T-cell development requires an intact stromal microenvironment, of which thymic epithelial cells (TECs) constitute a major part. For instance, cell-autonomous genetic defects of forkhead box N1 (Foxn1) and autoimmune regulator (Aire) in thymic epithelial cells cause primary immunodeficiency and autoimmunity, respectively. During development, the thymic epithelial rudiment gives rise to two major compartments, the cortex and medulla. Cortical TECs positively select T cells, whereas medullary TECs are involved in negative selection of potentially autoreactive T cells. It has long been unclear whether these two morphologically and functionally distinct types of epithelial cells arise from a common bi-potent progenitor cell and whether such progenitors are still present in the postnatal period. Here, using in vivo cell lineage analysis in mice, we demonstrate the presence of a common progenitor of cortical and medullary TECs after birth. To probe the function of postnatal progenitors, a conditional mutant allele of Foxn1 was reverted to wild-type function in single epithelial cells in vivo. This led to the formation of small thymic lobules containing both cortical and medullary areas that supported normal thymopoiesis. Thus, single epithelial progenitor cells can give rise to a complete and functional thymic microenvironment, suggesting that cell-based therapies could be developed for thymus disorders.
Chronic obstructive lung disease is characterized by persistent abnormalities in epithelial and immune cell function that are driven, at least in part, by infection. Analysis of parainfluenza virus infection in mice revealed an unexpected role for innate immune cells in IL-13-dependent chronic lung disease, but the upstream driver for the immune axis in this model and in humans with similar disease was undefined. We demonstrate here that lung levels of IL-33 are selectively increased in postviral mice with chronic obstructive lung disease and in humans with very severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)). In the mouse model, IL-33/IL-33 receptor signaling was required for Il13 and mucin gene expression, and Il33 gene expression was localized to a virus-induced subset of airway serous cells and a constitutive subset of alveolar type 2 cells that are both linked conventionally to progenitor function. In humans with COPD, IL33 gene expression was also associated with IL13 and mucin gene expression, and IL33 induction was traceable to a subset of airway basal cells with increased capacities for pluripotency and ATP-regulated release of IL-33. Together, these findings provide a paradigm for the role of the innate immune system in chronic disease based on the influence of long-term epithelial progenitor cells programmed for excess IL-33 production.
Thymic epithelial cells (TECs) are critical for T cell development and self-tolerance but are gradually lost with age. The existence of thymic epithelial progenitors (TEPCs) in the postnatal thymus has been inferred, but their identity has remained enigmatic. Here, we assessed the entire adult TEC compartment in order to reveal progenitor capacity is retained exclusively within a subset of immature thymic epithelium displaying several hallmark features of stem/progenitor function. These adult TEPCs generate mature cortical and medullary lineages in a stepwise fashion, including Aire+ TEC, within fetal thymus reaggregate grafts. Although relatively quiescent in vivo, adult TEPCs demonstrate significant in vitro colony formation and self-renewal. Importantly, 3D-cultured TEPCs retain their capacity to differentiate into cortical and medullary TEC lineages when returned to an in vivo thymic microenvironment. No other postnatal TEC subset exhibits this combination of properties. The characterization of adult TEPC will enable progress in understanding TEC biology in aging and regeneration. The thymus is responsible for T cell development and central tolerance but degenerates with age and is damaged by cytoablative treatments associated with cancer therapy. A central feature is the loss in thymic epithelial cells. Here, Wong et al. identify endogenous thymic epithelial stem/progenitor cells in the adult thymus within a major-histocompatibility-complex-II-low and α6-integrin/Sca-1-high subset. These findings will enable progress in understanding thymic epithelial cell aging and in developing strategies for endogenous thymus repair for immune regeneration.
In an effort to understand the potential role of microRNAs (miRNAs) in mammary-gland stem or progenitor cells, miRNA microarrays were performed on subpopulations of the mouse mammary epithelial cell (MEC) line COMMA-DbGeo. This cell line contains a heterogeneous subpopulation of progenitors characterized by the expression of stem cell antigen 1 (Sca-1; encoded by Ly6a). Microarray analysis indicated that the Sca-1 subpopulations have distinct miRNA expression profiles. Functional studies were performed on miR-205, which was highly expressed in the Sca-1-positive (Sca-1(+)) cells. When miR-205 was overexpressed in vitro, the COMMA-DbGeo cells underwent several significant morphological and molecular changes. miR-205 overexpression led to an expansion of the progenitor-cell population, decreased cell size and increased cellular proliferation. In addition, the colony-forming potential of the two Sca-1 subpopulations was increased. Target prediction for miR-205 indicated that it might regulate the expression of the tumor-suppressor protein PTEN. Overexpression studies using reporter constructs confirmed that PTEN expression is regulated by miR-205. In addition to PTEN, several other putative and previously validated miR-205 targets were identified by microarray analysis, including the previously reported miR-205 targets ZEB1 and ZEB2. Additionally, in normal mouse MECs, high expression of miR-205 was observed in stem-cell-enriched cell populations isolated by FACS using established cell-surface markers.
The Hippo/Yap pathway is a well-conserved signaling cascade that regulates cell proliferation and differentiation to control organ size and stem/progenitor cell behavior. Following airway injury, Yap was dynamically regulated in regenerating airway epithelial cells. To determine the role of Hippo signaling in the lung, the mammalian Hippo kinases, Mst1 and Mst2, were deleted in epithelial cells of the embryonic and mature mouse lung. Mst1/2 deletion in the fetal lung enhanced proliferation and inhibited sacculation and epithelial cell differentiation. The transcriptional inhibition of cell proliferation and activation of differentiation during normal perinatal lung maturation were inversely regulated following embryonic Mst1/2 deletion. Ablation of Mst1/2 from bronchiolar epithelial cells in the adult lung caused airway hyperplasia and altered differentiation. Inhibitory Yap phosphorylation was decreased and Yap nuclear localization and transcriptional targets were increased after Mst1/2 deletion, consistent with canonical Hippo/Yap signaling. YAP potentiated cell proliferation and inhibited differentiation of human bronchial epithelial cells in vitro. Loss of Mst1/2 and expression of YAP regulated transcriptional targets controlling cell proliferation and differentiation, including Ajuba LIM protein. Ajuba was required for the effects of YAP on cell proliferation in vitro. Hippo/Yap signaling regulates Ajuba and controls proliferation and differentiation of lung epithelial progenitor cells.
The locus encodes a cluster of 7 microRNAs transcribed as a single primary transcript. It can accelerate c-Myc induced B cell lymphoma development and is highly expressed in many tumors, including lung tumors. However, the role of in development has not been well studied. From analysis of microRNAs during lung development, expression of the miR-17-92 cluster is high at early stages, but declines as development proceeds. We used the mouse surfactant protein C (Sftpc) promoter to over-express the cluster in embryonic lung epithelium. Transgenic lungs have a very abnormal lethal phenotype. They contain numerous proliferative epithelial cells that retain high levels of Sox9, a marker of distal progenitors. The differentiation of proximal epithelial cells was also inhibited. Furthermore, a significant increase in the number of neuroendocrine cell clusters was observed in the lungs of dead transgenic pups. We identify a tumor suppressor, Rbl2 which belongs to the Rb family, as a new target for . Together, these studies suggest that normally promotes the high proliferation and undifferentiated phenotype of lung epithelial progenitor cells.
Background: In the human lung, epithelial progenitor cells in the airways give rise to the differentiated pseudostratified airway epithelium. In mice, emerging evidence confers a progenitor function to cytokeratin 5 (KRT5(+)) or cytokeratin 14 (KRT14(+))-positive basal cells of the airway epithelium. Little is known, however, about the distribution of progenitor subpopulations in the human lung, particularly about aberrant epithelial differentiation in lung disease, such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Methods: Here, we used multi-color immunofluorescence analysis to detect and quantify the distribution of airway epithelial progenitor subpopulations in human lungs obtained from healthy donors or IPF patients. Results: In lungs from both, healthy donors and IPF patients, we detected KRT5(+)KRT14(-), KRT5(-)KRT14(+) and KRT5(+)KRT14(+) populations in the proximal airways. KRT14(+) cells, however, were absent in the distal airways of healthy lungs. In IPF, we detected a dramatic increase in the amount of KRT5(+) cells and the emergence of a frequent KRT5(+)KRT14(+) epithelial population, in particular in distal airways and alveolar regions. While the KRT14-progenitor population exhibited signs of proper epithelial differentiation, as evidenced by co-staining with pro-SPC, aquaporin 5, CC10, or MUC5B, the KRT14(+) cell population did not co-stain with bronchial/alveolar differentiation markers in IPF. Conclusions: We provide, for the first time, a quantitative profile of the distribution of epithelial progenitor populations in human lungs. We show compelling evidence for dysregulation and aberrant differentiation of these populations in IPF.