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Loss of Hox5 function results in myofibroblast mislocalization and distal lung matrix defects during postnatal development


Alveologenesis is the final stage of lung development and is responsible for the formation of the principle gas exchange units called alveoli. The lung mesenchyme, in particular the alveolar myofibroblasts, are drivers of alveolar development, however, few key regulators that govern the proper distribution and behavior of these cells in the distal lung during alveologenesis have been identified. While Hox5 triple mutants (Hox5 aabbcc) exhibit neonatal lethality, four-allele, compound mutant mice (Hox5 AabbCc) are born in Mendelian ratios and are phenotypically normal at birth. However, they exhibit defects in alveologenesis characterized by a BPD-like phenotype by early postnatal stages that becomes more pronounced at adult stages. Invasive pulmonary functional analyses demonstrate significant increases in total lung volume and compliance and a decrease in elastance in Hox5 compound mutants. SMA+ myofibroblasts in the distal lung are distributed abnormally during peak stages of alveologenesis and aggregate, resulting in the formation of a disrupted elastin network. Examination of other key components of the distal lung ECM, as well as other epithelial cells and lipofibroblasts reveal no differences in distribution. Collectively, these data indicate that Hox5 genes play a critical role in alveolar development by governing the proper cellular behavior of myofibroblasts during alveologenesis.

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This work was supported by a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NSRA) training Grant 5 T32 HL 7749-20 to S.M.H. This research was also supported by MICHR PTSP UL1TR002240 to L.M.S and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) R01-HL119215 to D.M.W.

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Correspondence to Deneen M. Wellik.

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Hrycaj, S.M., Marty-Santos, L., Rasky, A.J. et al. Loss of Hox5 function results in myofibroblast mislocalization and distal lung matrix defects during postnatal development. Sci. China Life Sci. 61, 1030–1038 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11427-017-9290-1

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  • Hox5
  • alveologenesis
  • alveolar myofibroblasts
  • lung ECM
  • postnatal lung development