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Histological hallmarks and role of Slug/PIP axis in pulmonary hypertension secondary to pulmonary fibrosis.


Pulmonary hypertension secondary to pulmonary fibrosis (PF-PH) is one of the most common causes of PH, and there is no approved therapy. The molecular signature of PF-PH and underlying mechanism of why pulmonary hypertension (PH) develops in PF patients remains understudied and poorly understood. We observed significantly increased vascular wall thickness in both fibrotic and non-fibrotic areas of PF-PH patient lungs compared to PF patients. The increased vascular wall thickness in PF-PH patients is concomitant with a significantly increased expression of the transcription factor Slug within the macrophages and its target prolactin-induced protein (PIP), an extracellular matrix protein that induces pulmonary arterial smooth muscle cell proliferation. We developed a novel translational rat model of combined PF-PH that is reproducible and shares similar histological features (fibrosis, pulmonary vascular remodeling) and molecular features (Slug and PIP upregulation) with human PF-PH. We found Slug inhibition decreases PH severity in our animal model of PF-PH. Our study highlights the role of Slug/PIP axis in PF-PH.

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