Airway remodeling, caused by inflammation and fibrosis, is a major component of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and currently has no effective treatment. Transforming growth factor-? (TGF-?) has been widely implicated in the pathogenesis of airway remodeling in COPD. TGF-? is expressed in a latent form that requires activation. The integrin ?v?8 (encoded by the itgb8 gene) is a receptor for latent TGF-? and is essential for its activation. Expression of integrin ?v?8 is increased in airway fibroblasts in COPD and thus is an attractive therapeutic target for the treatment of airway remodeling in COPD. We demonstrate that an engineered optimized antibody to human ?v?8 (B5) inhibited TGF-? activation in transgenic mice expressing only human and not mouse ITGB8. The B5 engineered antibody blocked fibroinflammatory responses induced by tobacco smoke, cytokines, and allergens by inhibiting TGF-? activation. To clarify the mechanism of action of B5, we used hydrodynamic, mutational, and electron microscopic methods to demonstrate that ?v?8 predominantly adopts a constitutively active, extended-closed headpiece conformation. Epitope mapping and functional characterization of B5 revealed an allosteric mechanism of action due to locking-in of a low-affinity ?v?8 conformation. Collectively, these data demonstrate a new model for integrin function and present a strategy to selectively target the TGF-? pathway to treat fibroinflammatory airway diseases.
The airway is a primary portal of entry for noxious environmental stimuli that can trigger airway remodeling, which contributes significantly to airway obstruction in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and chronic asthma. Important pathologic components of airway remodeling include fibrosis and abnormal innate and adaptive immune responses. The positioning of fibroblasts in interstitial spaces suggests that they could participate in both fibrosis and chemokine regulation of the trafficking of immune cells such as dendritic cells, which are crucial antigen-presenting cells. However, physiological evidence for this dual role for fibroblasts is lacking. Here, in two physiologically relevant models - conditional deletion in mouse fibroblasts of the TGF-?-activating integrin ?v?8 and neutralization of ?v?8 in human COPD fibroblasts - we have elucidated a mechanism whereby lung fibroblast chemokine secretion directs dendritic cell trafficking, in a manner that is critically dependent on ?v?8-mediated activation of TGF-? by fibroblasts. Our data therefore indicate that fibroblasts have a crucial role in regulating both fibrotic and immune responses in the lung.
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