Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Biomedical Sciences

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Michael R. Blackburn Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sandeep K. Agarwal M.D., Ph.D.

Committee Member

Russel Broaddus M.D., Ph.D.

Committee Member

Rodney E Kellems Ph.D.

Committee Member

Renhao Li Ph.D.


Chronic lung diseases (CLDs) are a considerable source of morbidity and mortality and are thought to arise from dysregulation of normal wound healing processes. An aggressive, feature of many CLDs is pulmonary fibrosis (PF) and is characterized by excess deposition of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins from myofibroblasts in airways. However, factors regulating myofibroblast biology are incompletely understood. Proteins in the cadherin family contribute epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT), a suggested source of myofibroblasts. Cadherin 11 (CDH11) contributes to developmental and pathologic processes that parallel those seen in PF and EMT. Utilizing Cdh11 knockout (Cdh11 -/-) mice, the goal of this study was to characterize the contribution of CDH11 in the bleomycin model of PF and assess the feasibility of treating established PF. We demonstrate CDH11 in macrophages and airway epithelial cells undergoing EMT in lungs of mice given bleomycin and patients with PF. Endpoints consistent with PF including ECM production and myofibroblast formation are reduced in CDH11-targeted mice given bleomycin. Findings suggesting mechanisms of CDH11-dependent fibrosis include the regulation of the profibrotic mediator TGF-â in alveolar macrophages and CDH11-mediated EMT. The results of this study propose CDH11 as a novel drug target for PF. In addition, another CLD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), is characterized by airway inflammation and destruction. Adenosine, a nucleoside signaling molecule generated in response to cell stress is upregulated in patients with COPD and is suggested to contribute to its pathogenesis. An established model of adenosine-mediated lung injury exhibiting features of COPD is the Ada -/- mouse. Previous studies in our lab suggest features of the Ada -/- phenotype may be secondary to adenosine-dependent expression of osteopontin (OPN). OPN is a protein implicated in a variety of human pathology, but its role in COPD has not been examined. To address this, Ada/Opn -/- mice were generated and endpoints consistent with COPD were examined in parallel with Ada -/- mice. Results demonstrate OPN-mediated pulmonary neutrophilia and airway destruction in Ada -/- mice. Furthermore, patients with COPD exhibit increased OPN in airways which correlate with clinical airway obstruction. These results suggest OPN represents a novel biomarker or therapeutic target for the management of patients with COPD. The importance of findings in this thesis is highlighted by the fact that no pharmacologic interventions have been shown to interfere with disease progression or improve survival rates in patients with COPD or PF.


cadherin 11, osteopontin, epithelial to mesenchymal transition, adenosine, ADA, TGF beta