This application for a Mentored Clinical Scientist Research Career Development Award (K08) is being submitted by SeungHye Han, MD, MPH, and entitled ?Mitochondrial metabolic regulation of lung epithelium: alveolar generation and regeneration.? I am a pulmonary and critical care physician at Northwestern University who is obtaining additional training to build expertise as a physician scientist studying metabolic regulation of lung development and repair after lung injury. My long-term research goal is to find new therapeutic targets to promote lung repair in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). The objective of my current project is to study the role of mitochondrial complex I on postnatal lung development and lung repair after influenza infection, and identify metabolites and pathways that link complex I driven respiration to lung stem/progenitor cells. ARDS is a devastating disorder commonly associated with pneumonia and influenza infection, which are categorized as one of the ten leading causes of death in the United States. The mortality rate is high from 30 to 45%, and there is no current effective therapy except supportive care. One novel therapeutic approach is to promote lung repair after injury has occurred. Several lung epithelial subpopulations have been reported to expand in response to various insults, and repopulate to replace damaged alveolar epithelial cells. Little is known about how proliferation and differentiation are regulated in these epithelial stem/progenitor cells. My mentor Dr. Chandel?s laboratory previously demonstrated that the mitochondrial respiratory chain is essential for the differentiation of various cells including keratinocytes, adipocytes, and hematopoietic stem cells. These effects are exerted through reactive oxygen species or the accumulation of mitochondrial metabolites that control epigenetic machinery, and are independent of the ATP synthetic function of mitochondria. Whether lung epithelial stem/progenitor cells are regulated by mitochondrial metabolism has not been studied. My preliminary data suggest that mitochondrial complex I driven respiration is required for the differentiation of lung epithelial stem/progenitor cells. These observations led to the novel hypothesis that mitochondrial complex I driven respiration, independent of ATP generation, is necessary and sufficient for postnatal lung development via metabolites (Aim 1), and is necessary for the repair of influenza-induced adult epithelial lung injury (Aim 2). My project will provide a new mechanistic model linking mitochondrial metabolism to lung epithelial stem/progenitor cells in the context of lung injury and repair. The training plan will promote acquisition of key metabolic and biochemical laboratory skills, proficiency with conducting animal studies, and interpretation of high throughput data from high dimensional (-omic) platforms. The activities planned in this proposal, including guidance with close mentorship, attendance of conferences, and completion of coursework in a research- intensive institutional environment, will further my continued development into an independent researcher.
The acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a life-threatening lung condition, leading to low oxygen levels in blood, that commonly develops after pneumonia and influenza infections. Scientists have recently discovered that mitochondria, small organelles in most living cells that were previously known for energy generation, actually play a role in regulating how stem cells develop into different cell types. This study seeks to better understand the mechanisms behind how mitochondria influence stem cells and their differentiation in the lungs, and eventually lead to new therapies to promote repair in lung tissue damaged by ARDS.