Am J Med Sci 2019 Jun 22;357(6):483-491. Epub 2019 Mar 22.
Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, Department of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia. Electronic address:
Background: Individuals with HIV have ∼2-fold increased risk of developing pulmonary fibrosis. The mechanism(s) by which this occurs has yet to be determined. HIV-1 protein gp120 activates CXCR4 in the lymphocyte, promoting a variety of intracellular signaling pathways including those common to TGFβ1 associated with lung fibroblast-to-myofibroblast transdifferentiation. We hypothesized that gp120 promotes pulmonary fibrotic changes via activation of CXCR4 in the lung fibroblast.
Methods: Mouse primary lung fibroblasts (PLFs) were cultured ± gp120, then analyzed for α-SMA expression and stress fiber formation. In parallel, PLFs were cultured ± gp120 ± AMD3100 (a CXCR4 antagonist), and α-SMA, pan and phospho-Akt, and total and phospho-MAPK (or ERK1/2) protein expression was quantified. Finally, lungs and PLFs from wild-type and HIV-1 transgenic mice were analyzed for hydroxyproline and α-SMA content.
Results: gp120 treatment increased α-SMA expression and myofibroblast differentiation in PLFs. gp120 treatment activated phosphorylation of ERK1/2, but not PI3K-Akt. Pretreatment with AMD3100 inhibited gp120-induced ERK1/2 phosphorylation and gp120-induced α-SMA expression. In parallel, there was a significant increase in hydroxyproline content in lungs from older HIV-1 transgenic mice and a >3-fold increase in α-SMA expression in PLFs isolated from HIV-1 transgenic mice.
Conclusions: gp120 induces α-SMA expression and fibroblast-to-myofibroblast transdifferentiation by activating the CXCR4-ERK1/2 signaling pathway in mouse PLFs. Lungs of older HIV-1 transgenic mice contain higher hydroxyproline content and their PLFs have a striking increase in α-SMA expression. These results suggest a mechanism by which individuals with HIV are at increased risk of developing pulmonary fibrotic changes as they age.