Journal of translational medicine

BDNF/TrkB axis activation promotes epithelial-mesenchymal transition in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

PMID 28938915


Neurotrophins (NT) belongs to a family of growth factors which promotes neurons survival and differentiation. Increasing evidence show that NT and their receptor are expressed in lung tissues suggesting a possible role in lung health and disease. Here we investigated the expression and functional role of the TrkB/BDNF axis in idiopathic pulmonary fibrotic lung (myo)fibroblasts. Lung fibroblast were isolated from IPF patients and characterized for the expression of mesenchymal markers in comparison to normal lung fibroblasts isolated from non-IPF controls. BDNF treatment promoted mesenchymal differentiation and this effect was counteracted by the TrkB inhibitor K252a. In this regard, we showed that K252a treatment was able to control the expression of transcription factors involved in epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT). Accordingly, K252a treatment reduced matrix metalloproteinase-9 enzyme activity and E-cadherin expression while increased cytoplasmic β-catenin expression. Our results suggest that BDNF/TrkB axis plays a role in EMT promoting the acquisition of (myo)fibroblast cell phenotype in IPF. Targeting BDNF/TrkB seems to represent a viable approach in order to prevent EMT dependent lung fibrosis.