Lung extracellular matrix and redox regulation

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Pulmonary fibrosis affects millions worldwide and, even though there has been a significant investment in understanding the processes involved in wound healing and maladaptive repair, a complete understanding of the mechanisms responsible for lung fibrogenesis eludes us, and interventions capable of reversing or halting disease progression are not available. Pulmonary fibrosis is characterized by the excessive expression and uncontrolled deposition of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins resulting in erosion of the tissue structure. Initially considered an 'end-stage' process elicited after injury, these events are now considered pathogenic and are believed to contribute to the course of the disease. By interacting with integrins capable of signal transduction and by influencing tissue mechanics, ECM proteins modulate processes ranging from cell adhesion and migration to differentiation and growth factor expression. In doing so, ECM proteins help orchestrate complex developmental processes and maintain tissue homeostasis. However, poorly controlled deposition of ECM proteins promotes inflammation, fibroproliferation, and aberrant differentiation of cells, and has been implicated in the pathogenesis of pulmonary fibrosis, atherosclerosis and cancer. Considering their vital functions, ECM proteins are the target of investigation, and oxidation-reduction (redox) reactions have emerged as important regulators of the ECM. Oxidative stress invariably accompanies lung disease and promotes ECM expression directly or through the overproduction of pro-fibrotic growth factors, while affecting integrin binding and activation. In vitro and in vivo investigations point to redox reactions as targets for intervention in pulmonary fibrosis and related disorders, but studies in humans have been disappointing probably due to the narrow impact of the interventions tested, and our poor understanding of the factors that regulate these complex reactions. This review is not meant to provide a comprehensive review of this field, but rather to highlight what has been learned and to raise interest in this area in need of much attention.




Watson, W. H., Ritzenthaler, J. D., & Roman, J. (2016). Lung extracellular matrix and redox regulation. Redox Biology, 8, 305–315.

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