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Mesenchymal WNT-5A/5B Signaling Represses Lung Alveolar Epithelial Progenitors

Wu X, van Dijk EM, Ng-Blichfeldt JP, Bos IST, Ciminieri C, Königshoff M, Kistemaker LEM, Gosens R.

Cells. 2019 Sep 25;8(10):1147.



Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) represents a worldwide concern with high morbidity and mortality, and is believed to be associated with accelerated ageing of the lung. Alveolar abnormalities leading to emphysema are a key characteristic of COPD. Pulmonary alveolar epithelial type 2 cells (AT2) produce surfactant and function as progenitors for type 1 cells. Increasing evidence shows elevated WNT-5A/B expression in ageing and in COPD that may contribute to the disease process. However, supportive roles for WNT-5A/B in lung regeneration were also reported in different studies. Thus, we explored the role of WNT-5A/B on alveolar epithelial progenitors (AEPs) in more detail. We established a Precision-Cut-Lung Slices (PCLS) model and a lung organoid model by co-culturing epithelial cells (EpCAM+/CD45/CD31) with fibroblasts in matrigel in vitro to study the impact of WNT-5A and WNT-5B. Our results show that WNT-5A and WNT-5B repress the growth of epithelial progenitors with WNT-5B preferentially restraining the growth and differentiation of alveolar epithelial progenitors. We provide evidence that both WNT-5A and WNT-5B negatively regulate the canonical WNT signaling pathway in alveolar epithelium. Taken together, these findings reveal the functional impact of WNT-5A/5B signaling on alveolar epithelial progenitors in the lung, which may contribute to defective alveolar repair in COPD.