Publications & Posters

Proliferation Genes Repressed by TGF-β Are Downstream of Slug/Snail2 in Normal Bronchial Epithelial Progenitors and Are Deregulated in COPD

Stem Cell Reviews and Reports | January 26, 2021

Ben Brahim C, Courageux C, Jolly A, Ouine B, Cartier A, de la Grange P, de Koning L and Leroy P

Stem Cell Rev Rep. 2021;17:703-718

DOI: 10.1007/s12015-021-10123-z


Slug/Snail2 belongs to the Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition (EMT)-inducing transcription factors involved in development and diseases. Slug is expressed in adult stem/progenitor cells of several epithelia, making it unique among these transcription factors. To investigate Slug role in human bronchial epithelium progenitors, we studied primary bronchial basal/progenitor cells in an air-liquid interface culture system that allows regenerating a bronchial epithelium. To identify Slug downstream genes we knocked down Slug in basal/progenitor cells from normal subjects and subjects with COPD, a respiratory disease presenting anomalies in the bronchial epithelium and high levels of TGF-β in the lungs. We show that normal and COPD bronchial basal/progenitors, even when treated with TGF-β, express both epithelial and mesenchymal markers, and that the epithelial marker E-cadherin is not a target of Slug and, moreover, positively correlates with Slug. We reveal that Slug downstream genes responding to both differentiation and TGF-β are different in normal and COPD progenitors, with in particular a set of proliferation-related genes that are among the genes repressed downstream of Slug in normal but not COPD. In COPD progenitors at the onset of differentiation in presence of TGF-β,we show that there is positive correlations between the effect of differentiation and TGF-β on proliferation-related genes and on Slug protein, and that their expression levels are higher than in normal cells. As well, the expression of Smad3 and β-Catenin, two molecules from TGF-βsignaling pathways, are higher in COPD progenitors, and our results indicate that proliferation-related genes and Slug protein are increased by different TGF-β-induced mechanisms.