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Concept: Epithelium


Changes in the human gastrointestinal microbiome are associated with several diseases. To infer causality, experiments in representative models are essential, but widely used animal models exhibit limitations. Here we present a modular, microfluidics-based model (HuMiX, human-microbial crosstalk), which allows co-culture of human and microbial cells under conditions representative of the gastrointestinal human-microbe interface. We demonstrate the ability of HuMiX to recapitulate in vivo transcriptional, metabolic and immunological responses in human intestinal epithelial cells following their co-culture with the commensal Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) grown under anaerobic conditions. In addition, we show that the co-culture of human epithelial cells with the obligate anaerobe Bacteroides caccae and LGG results in a transcriptional response, which is distinct from that of a co-culture solely comprising LGG. HuMiX facilitates investigations of host-microbe molecular interactions and provides insights into a range of fundamental research questions linking the gastrointestinal microbiome to human health and disease.

Concepts: Medicine, Archaea, Epidemiology, Disease, Bacteria, Microbiology, Epithelium, Lactobacillus rhamnosus


Over 100 million women use progesterone therapies worldwide. Despite having immunomodulatory and repair properties, their effects on the outcome of viral diseases outside of the reproductive tract have not been evaluated. Administration of exogenous progesterone (at concentrations that mimic the luteal phase) to progesterone-depleted adult female mice conferred protection from both lethal and sublethal influenza A virus (IAV) infection. Progesterone treatment altered the inflammatory environment of the lungs, but had no effects on viral load. Progesterone treatment promoted faster recovery by increasing TGF-β, IL-6, IL-22, numbers of regulatory Th17 cells expressing CD39, and cellular proliferation, reducing protein leakage into the airway, improving pulmonary function, and upregulating the epidermal growth factor amphiregulin (AREG) in the lungs. Administration of rAREG to progesterone-depleted females promoted pulmonary repair and improved the outcome of IAV infection. Progesterone-treatment of AREG-deficient females could not restore protection, indicating that progesterone-mediated induction of AREG caused repair in the lungs and accelerated recovery from IAV infection. Repair and production of AREG by damaged respiratory epithelial cell cultures in vitro was increased by progesterone. Our results illustrate that progesterone is a critical host factor mediating production of AREG by epithelial cells and pulmonary tissue repair following infection, which has important implications for women’s health.

Concepts: Reproduction, Lung, Pneumonia, Epidermal growth factor, Epithelium, Skin, Cervix, Influenzavirus A


Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a lethal interstitial lung disease characterized by airway remodeling, inflammation, alveolar destruction, and fibrosis. We utilized single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) to identify epithelial cell types and associated biological processes involved in the pathogenesis of IPF. Transcriptomic analysis of normal human lung epithelial cells defined gene expression patterns associated with highly differentiated alveolar type 2 (AT2) cells, indicated by enrichment of RNAs critical for surfactant homeostasis. In contrast, scRNA-seq of IPF cells identified 3 distinct subsets of epithelial cell types with characteristics of conducting airway basal and goblet cells and an additional atypical transitional cell that contributes to pathological processes in IPF. Individual IPF cells frequently coexpressed alveolar type 1 (AT1), AT2, and conducting airway selective markers, demonstrating “indeterminate” states of differentiation not seen in normal lung development. Pathway analysis predicted aberrant activation of canonical signaling via TGF-β, HIPPO/YAP, P53, WNT, and AKT/PI3K. Immunofluorescence confocal microscopy identified the disruption of alveolar structure and loss of the normal proximal-peripheral differentiation of pulmonary epithelial cells. scRNA-seq analyses identified loss of normal epithelial cell identities and unique contributions of epithelial cells to the pathogenesis of IPF. The present study provides a rich data source to further explore lung health and disease.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Gene expression, Molecular biology, Lung, Epithelium, Basement membrane, Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis


Besides the kidneys, the gastrointestinal tract is the principal organ responsible for sodium homeostasis. For sodium transport across the cell membranes the epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) is of pivotal relevance. The ENaC is mainly regulated by mineralocorticoid receptor mediated actions. The MR activation by endogenous 11β-hydroxy-glucocorticoids is modulated by the 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2 (11β-HSD2). Here we present evidence for intestinal segment specific 11β-HSD2 expression and hypothesize that a high salt intake and/or uninephrectomy (UNX) affects colonic 11β-HSD2, MR and ENaC expression. The 11β-HSD2 activity was measured by means of 3H-corticosterone conversion into 3H-11-dehydrocorticosterone in Sprague Dawley rats on a normal and high salt diet. The activity increased steadily from the ileum to the distal colon by a factor of about 3, an observation in line with the relevance of the distal colon for sodium handling. High salt intake diminished mRNA and protein of 11β-HSD2 by about 50% (p<0.001) and reduced the expression of the MR (p<0.01). The functionally relevant ENaC-β and ENaC-γ expression, a measure of mineralocorticoid action, diminished by more than 50% by high salt intake (p<0.001). The observed changes were present in rats with and without UNX. Thus, colonic epithelial cells appear to contribute to the protective armamentarium of the mammalian body against salt overload, a mechanism not modulated by UNX.

Concepts: Protein, Digestive system, Epithelium, Aldosterone, Stomach, Sodium, Laboratory rat, Epithelial sodium channel


The aim of this study was to investigate the feasibility of inducing rat neural crest cells (NCC) to differentiate to functional corneal endothelial cell (CEC)-like cells in vitro. Rat NCC were induced with adult CEC-derived conditioned medium. Immunofluorescence, flow cytometry and real time RT-PCR assay were used to detect expression of the corneal endothelium differentiation marker N-cadherin and transcription factors FoxC1 and Pitx2. CFDA SE-labeled CEC-like cells were transplanted to the corneal endothelium of a rat corneal endothelium deficiency model, and an eye-down position was maintained for 24 hours to allow cell attachment. The animals were observed for as long as 2 months after surgery and underwent clinical and histological examination. Spindle-like NCC turned to polygonal CEC-like after induction and expressed N-cadherin, FoxC1, Pitx2, zonula occludens-1 and sodium-potassium pump Na(+)/K(+) ATPase. The corneas of the experimental group were much clearer than those of the control group and the mean corneal thickness in the experimental group was significantly less than in the control group7, 14, 21 and 28 days after surgery. Confocal microscopy through focusing and histological analysis confirmed that green fluorescence-positive CEC-like cells formed a monolayer covering the Descemet’s membrane in the experimental group. In conclusion, CEC-like cells derived from NCCs displayed characters of native CEC, and the induction protocol provides guidance for future human CEC induction from NCC.

Concepts: DNA, Gene expression, Embryo, Developmental biology, Epithelium, Endothelium, Cornea, Corneal endothelium


The use of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) has been postulated to be the most effective strategy for developing patient-specific respiratory epithelial cells, which may be valuable for lung-related cell therapy and lung tissue engineering. We generated a relatively homogeneous population of alveolar epithelial type II (AETII) and type I (AETI) cells from human iPSCs that had phenotypic properties similar to those of mature human AETII and AETI cells. We used these cells to explore whether lung tissue can be regenerated in vitro. Consistent with an AETII phenotype, we found that up to 97% of cells were positive for surfactant protein C, 95% for mucin-1, 93% for surfactant protein B, and 89% for the epithelial marker CD54. Additionally, exposing induced AETII to a Wnt/β-catenin inhibitor (IWR-1) changed the iPSC-AETII-like phenotype to a predominantly AETI-like phenotype. We found that of induced AET1 cells, more than 90% were positive for type I markers, T1α, and caveolin-1. Acellular lung matrices were prepared from whole rat or human adult lungs treated with decellularization reagents, followed by seeding these matrices with alveolar cells derived from human iPSCs. Under appropriate culture conditions, these progenitor cells adhered to and proliferated within the 3D lung tissue scaffold and displayed markers of differentiated pulmonary epithelium.

Concepts: Gene, Lung, Extracellular matrix, Stem cell, Stem cells, Cell biology, Epithelium, Progenitor cell


Motility helps many pathogens swim through the highly viscous intestinal mucus. Given the differing outcomes of Campylobacter concisus infection, the motility of eight C. concisus strains isolated from patients with Crohn’s disease (n=3), acute (n=3) and chronic (n=1) gastroenteritis and a healthy control (n=1) were compared. Following growth on solid or liquid media the eight strains formed two groups; however, the type of growth medium did not affect motility. In contrast, following growth in viscous liquid medium seven of the eight strains demonstrated significantly decreased motility. In media of increasing viscosities the motility of C. concisus UNSWCD had two marked increases at viscosities of 20.0 and 74.7 centipoises. Determination of the ability of UNSWCD to swim through a viscous medium, adhere to and invade intestinal epithelial cells showed that while adherence levels significantly decreased with increasing viscosity, invasion levels did not significantly change. In contrast, adherence to and invasion of UNSWCD to mucus-producing intestinal cells increased upon accumulation of mucus, as did bacterial aggregation. Given this aggregation, we determined the ability of the eight C. concisus strains to form biofilms, and showed that all strains formed biofilms. In conclusion, the finding that C. concisus strains could be differentiated into two groups based on their motility may suggest that strains with high motility have an increased ability to swim through the intestinal mucus and reach the epithelial layer.

Concepts: Bacteria, Epithelium, Stomach, Viscosity, Biofilm, Respiratory epithelium, Diarrhea, Intestinal epithelium


Current treatments for reversible blindness caused by corneal endothelial cell failure involve replacing the failed endothelium with donor tissue using a one donor-one recipient strategy. Due to the increasing pressure of a worldwide donor cornea shortage there has been considerable interest in developing alternative strategies to treat endothelial disorders using expanded cell replacement therapy. Protocols have been developed which allow successful expansion of endothelial cells in vitro but this approach requires a supporting material that would allow easy transfer of cells to the recipient. We describe the first use of plastic compressed collagen as a highly effective, novel carrier for human corneal endothelial cells. A human corneal endothelial cell line and primary human corneal endothelial cells retained their characteristic cobblestone morphology and expression of tight junction protein ZO-1 and pump protein Na+/K+ ATPase α1 after culture on collagen constructs for up to 14 days. Additionally, ultrastructural analysis suggested a well-integrated endothelial layer with tightly opposed cells and apical microvilli. Plastic compressed collagen is a superior biomaterial in terms of its speed and ease of production and its ability to be manipulated in a clinically relevant manner without breakage. This method provides expanded endothelial cells with a substrate that could be suitable for transplantation allowing one donor cornea to potentially treat multiple patients.

Concepts: Protein, Cell, Collagen, Epithelium, Endothelium, Cornea, Corneal endothelium


BACKGROUND: Stress of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) leading to activation of the unfolded protein response (UPR) and alveolar epithelial cell (AEC) apoptosis may play a role in the pathogenesis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Our objectives were to determine whether circulating caspase-cleaved cytokeratin-18 (cCK-18) is a marker of AEC apoptosis in IPF, define the relationship of cCK-18 with activation of the UPR, and assess its utility as a diagnostic biomarker. METHODS: IPF and normal lung tissues were stained with the antibody (M30) that specifically binds cCK-18. The relationship between markers of the UPR and cCK-18 was determined in AECs exposed in vitro to thapsigargin to induce ER stress. cCK-18 was measured in serum from subjects with IPF, hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP), nonspecific interstitial pneumonia (NSIP), and control subjects. RESULTS: cCK-18 immunoreactivity was present in AECs of IPF lung, but not in control subjects. Markers of the UPR (phosphorylated IRE-1alpha and spliced XBP-1) were more highly expressed in IPF type II AECs than in normal type II AECs. Phosphorylated IRE-1alpha and cCK-18 increased following thapsigargin-induced ER stress. Serum cCK-18 level distinguished IPF from diseased and control subjects. Serum cCK-18 was not associated with disease severity or outcome. CONCLUSIONS: cCK-18 may be a marker of AEC apoptosis and UPR activation in patients with IPF. Circulating levels of cCK-18 are increased in patients with IPF and cCK-18 may be a useful diagnostic biomarker.

Concepts: Immune system, Pulmonology, Lung, Endoplasmic reticulum, Epithelium, Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, Pulmonary fibrosis, Unfolded protein response


Swimming in indoor pools treated with combined chemical treatments (e.g. ozone) may reduce direct exposure to disinfection byproducts and thus have less negative effects on respiratory function compared to chlorinated pools. The aim of this study is to analyze the effects of a short-term training intervention on respiratory function and lung epithelial damage in adults exercising in indoor swimming pool waters treated with different disinfection methods (chlorine vs. ozone with bromine).

Concepts: Epithelium, Hydrogen peroxide, Chlorine, Health club, Diving, Chlorination, Swimming pool