Plasticity of airway cell proliferation and gene expression after acute naphthalene injury
The goal of this study was to determine the temporal and spatial sequence of events that accompany lung injury and repair after parenteral administration of the Clara cell-specific cytotoxicant, naphthalene. Changes in airway epithelial cells were evaluated by measuring alterations in the expression of markers for differentiated Clara cells (CYPIIF and Clara cell 10-kDa secretory protein, CC10), distal airway/alveolar type II cells (surfactant protein B; SP-B) and for cycling/proliferating cells (cyclin dependent kinase 1; CDK1). Naphthalene-induced Clara cell cytotoxicity resulted in the exfoliation of epithelial cells containing CC10 protein. This was accompanied by a dramatic reduction in the abundance of mRNA for CC10 and CYPIIF. Large numbers of CDK1 mRNA-positive cells were identified in and around bronchioles and terminal bronchioles 48 h after treatment. This cellular proliferation resulted in the population of airways by immature epithelial cells lacking normal levels of CC10 mRNA but overexpressing SP-B mRNA. Seventy-two hours after naphthalene treatment a reduction in CDK1 mRNA- positive cells was noted within bronchioles and terminal bronchioles at all locations, with the exception of airway bifurcations. At airway bifurcations CDK1 mRNA appeared to be more abundant at the 72-h time point than at 48 h. Comparison of these sections with serial sections probed for CC10 mRNA demonstrated a correlation between the expression of CDK1 and CC10 mRNA at bifurcations. Temporal increases in the abundance of CC10 mRNA observed at later time points were largely accounted for by the processive maturation of newly repopulated cells neighboring bifurcations in bronchioles. These studies identify spatially distinct populations of cells that act in concert to repopulate naphthalene-injured airways and support the notion that branch point cells play an important role in the maturation of newly regenerated airway epithelial cells after acute injury.