The structure and function of alveolar capillaries are deranged in pulmonary emphysema. Restoration of the pulmonary microvasculature is also an important therapeutic goal for interstitial fibrosis and other causes of pulmonary hypertension. A critical step towards achieving this goal is to identify factors which regulate capillary expansion and maturation during alveolar septal formation. Hypothesis: Formation and expansion of the alveolar capillary network requires cooperation among endothelial cells, pericytes, and lung fibroblasts (LF). During secondary septal formation, PDGF-mediated signaling directs pericytes and MF to ensure (a) expansion and maintenance of these cell populations, (b) migration and establishment of intercellular contacts with the endothelium, and (c) sub-division of the existing endothelial tubes to allow rapid expansion of capillary surface area.
Specific Aim 1 : To (a) demonstrate that fibroblasts and pericytes spatially converge on the endothelium as the capillary meshwork forms during septation and (b) investigate how PDGF-mediated signaling regulates formation of the mural sheath by pericytes and myofibroblasts in mice.
Specific Aim 2 : Examine cellular mechanisms whereby PDGF-A and PDGF-B promote formation of the mural sheath in vitro by enhancing cell migration and the formation of cell- cell contacts along endothelial tubes. Genetically modified mice will be used to identify and localize alveolar cells which (a) express PDGF receptor-alpha (PDGF-R1) or (b) have characteristics of pericytes. Laser scanning confocal microscopy (LSCM) and stereology will be used to analyze ingress of LF and pericytes and their association with alveolar endothelial cells in the meshwork. These studies will ascertain if there is a temporally progressive decrease in the distance between the capillary endothelium and surrounding LF and pericytes. Studies will also examine how disrupting PDGF-signaling pathways in LF and pericytes alters (a) the capillary meshwork and (b) pericyte and LF proliferation and longevity. Important signaling pathways, which are initiated by PDGFs, are mediated by Abelson kinase and Rac1, and alter pericyte or LF proliferation and apoptosis will be examined.
The second aim we will examine how PDGF-A and PDGF-B direct the migration and association of endothelial cells, LF, and pericytes in culture. Endothelial and mural cells coalesce in the capillary wall. To learn how these cells intermingle, cell surface adhesion molecules will be compared when mural cells migrate to when the mural coalesce with the endothelial basement membrane. Molecules, including nectins and cadherins, which regulate cell-cell interactions will be investigated as cells transition from a migratory to a sessile state, and form adherens and tight junctions. Detailed time-lapse microscopic studies will reveal how laminin and integrins promote PDGF-A or PDGF-B-stimulated migration of fibroblasts and pericytes. These studies will provide novel information about non-sprouting angiogenesis (NSA) in the lung. A better understanding of NSA may identify factors that are also important in the pathogenesis and repair of diseases involving other microvascular beds such as the kidneys and brain. Microangiopathies are central to diabetes, stroke, and chronic renal insufficiency, which are becoming more prevalent among veterans. . Potential impact for veterans'health care: These studies may foster the development of new therapies resulting in improved outcomes and lower costs for treating pulmonary emphysema and vascular diseases, which is are common among veterans.

Public Health Relevance

PROJECT NARRATIVE: Although the prevalence of smoking has declined, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and its attendant pathological pulmonary abnormality, emphysema, are common and disproportionately contribute to hospitalizations and health care costs among veterans. Because most of the currently available therapies only address symptoms, identification of strategies that limit disease progression remains an important goal. This proposal will investigate mechanisms that regulate how supporting structural cells associate with and modify lung capillaries, to improve gas exchange, increase blood flow, and provide vascular stability. These studies are relevant to other vascular diseases including stroke, diabetes, and chronic renal insufficiency, which are also common among veterans.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Veterans Affairs (VA)
Non-HHS Research Projects (I01)
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Iowa City VA Medical Center
Iowa City
United States
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McGowan, Stephen (2017) Understanding the developmental pathways pulmonary fibroblasts may follow during alveolar regeneration. Cell Tissue Res 367:707-719
McGowan, Stephen E; McCoy, Diann M (2017) Glucocorticoids Retain Bipotent Fibroblast Progenitors during Alveolar Septation in Mice. Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol 57:111-120
McGowan, Stephen E; McCoy, Diann M (2017) Platelet-derived growth factor receptor-? and Ras-related C3 botulinum toxin substrate-1 regulate mechano-responsiveness of lung fibroblasts. Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol 313:L1174-L1187
McGowan, Stephen E; McCoy, Diann M (2015) Fibroblast growth factor signaling in myofibroblasts differs from lipofibroblasts during alveolar septation in mice. Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol 309:L463-74
McGowan, Stephen E (2014) Paracrine cellular and extracellular matrix interactions with mesenchymal progenitors during pulmonary alveolar septation. Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol 100:227-39
Ahlbrecht, Katrin; McGowan, Stephen E (2014) In search of the elusive lipofibroblast in human lungs. Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol 307:L605-8
McGowan, Stephen E; McCoy, Diann M (2014) Regulation of fibroblast lipid storage and myofibroblast phenotypes during alveolar septation in mice. Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol 307:L618-31
McGowan, Stephen E; McCoy, Diann M (2013) Platelet-derived growth factor-A regulates lung fibroblast S-phase entry through p27(kip1) and FoxO3a. Respir Res 14:68
McGowan, Stephen E; McCoy, Diann M (2013) Platelet-derived growth factor-A and sonic hedgehog signaling direct lung fibroblast precursors during alveolar septal formation. Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol 305:L229-39
McGowan, Stephen E; McCoy, Diann M (2011) Fibroblasts expressing PDGF-receptor-alpha diminish during alveolar septal thinning in mice. Pediatr Res 70:44-9