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Collagen VI Deficiency Results in Structural Abnormalities in the Mouse Lung

Abstract

Collagen VI (COL6) is known for its role in a spectrum of congenital muscular dystrophies, which are often accompanied by respiratory dysfunction. However, little is known regarding the function of COL6 in the lung. We confirmed the presence of COL6 throughout the basement membrane region of mouse lung tissue. Lung structure and organization were studied in a previously described Col6a1−/− mouse, which does not produce detectable COL6 in the lung. The Col6a1−/− mouse displayed histopathologic alveolar and airway abnormalities. The airspaces of Col6a1−/− lungs appeared simplified, with larger (29%; P < 0.01) and fewer (31%; P < 0.001) alveoli. These airspace abnormalities included reduced isolectin B4+ alveolar capillaries and surfactant protein C–positive alveolar epithelial type-II cells. Alterations in lung function consistent with these histopathologic changes were evident. Col6a1−/− mice also displayed multiple airway changes, including increased branching (59%; P < 0.001), increased mucosal thickness (34%; P < 0.001), and increased epithelial cell density (13%; P < 0.001). Comprehensive transcriptome analysis revealed that the loss of COL6 is associated with reductions in integrin-paxillin–phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase signaling in vivo. In vitro, COL6 promoted steady-state phosphorylated paxillin levels and reduced cell density (16% to 28%; P < 0.05) at confluence. Inhibition of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase, or its downstream effectors, resulted in increased cell density to a level similar to that seen on matrices lacking COL6.

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