Reticulocalbin 3 Deficiency in Alveolar Epithelium Exacerbated Bleomycin-induced Pulmonary Fibrosis

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Reticulocalbin 3 (Rcn3) is an endoplasmic reticulum (ER) lumen protein localized to the secretory pathway. We have reported that Rcn3 plays a critical role in alveolar epithelial type II cell maturation during perinatal lung development, but its biological role in the adult lung is largely unknown. In this study, we found marked induction of Rcn3 expression in alveolar epithelium during bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis, which is most obvious in alveolar epithelial type II cells (AECIIs). To further examine Rcn3 in pulmonary injury remodeling, we generated transgenic mice to selectively delete Rcn3 in AECIIs in adulthood. Although Rcn3 deletion did not cause obvious abnormalities in the lung architecture and mechanics, the exposure of Rcn3-deleted mice to bleomycin led to exacerbated pulmonary fibrosis and reduced lung mechanics. These Rcn3-deleted mice also displayed enhanced alveolar epithelial cell (AEC) apoptosis and ER stress after bleomycin treatment, which was confirmed by in vitro studies both in primary AECIIs and mouse lung epithelial cells. Consistently, Rcn3 deficiency also enhanced ER stress and apoptosis induced by ER stress inducers, tunicamycin and thapsigargin. In addition, Rcn3 deficiency caused blunted wound closure capability of AECs, but not altered proliferation and bleomycin-induced epithelial-mesenchymal transition process. Collectively, these findings indicate that bleomycin-induced upregulation of Rcn3 in AECIIs appears to contribute to AECII survival and wound healing. These observations, for the first time, suggest a novel role of Rcn3 in regulating pulmonary injury remodeling, and shed additional light on the mechanism of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

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