Radiation therapy is critical for the control of many tumors and lung is an important dose-limiting organ that impacts radiation dose prescribed to avoid irreversible pulmonary fibrosis in cancer survivors. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a chronic, irreversible lung disease caused by aberrantly activated lung (myo)fibroblasts. The presence of pro-fibrotic, apoptosis-resistant fibroblasts in IPF promotes progressive fibrosis and may have a role in other diseases, if these resistant cells are selected for as a consequence of treatment. However, the pathological response of IPF fibroblasts to radiation compared to non-IPF lung fibroblasts is not known. To address this, we examined fibroblast viability following radiation in lung fibroblasts from IPF and non-IPF patients and the underlying mechanism that protects IPF fibroblasts from radiation-induced death. IPF fibroblasts are significantly more resistant to apoptosis compared to non-IPF lung fibroblasts, suggesting that resistance to radiation-induced cell death is a predominant mechanism leading to lung fibrosis. Analysis of γH2AX induction demonstrated that radiation-induced DNA damage is reduced in IPF fibroblasts and correlates to the activation of the transcription factor forkhead box M1 (FoxM1) and subsequent upregulation of DNA repair proteins RAD51 and BRCA2. FoxM1 activation occurs secondary to FoxO3a suppression in IPF fibroblasts while restoration of FoxO3a function sensitizes IPF fibroblasts to radiation-induced cell death and downregulates FoxM1, RAD51, and BRCA2. Our findings support that increased FoxO3a/FoxM1-dependent DNA repair may be integral to the preservation of death-resistant fibrotic fibroblasts after radiation and that selective targeting of radioresistant fibroblasts may mitigate fibrosis.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported by the NHLBI HL114662 and CLSH grants (to R.S.N.).
© 2018 The Author(s).