The tight junctions (TJ), which are located in the apical region between epithelial and endothelial cells, regulate the paracellular diffusion of ions and small molecules and play an important role in maintaining cell polarity, cell-cell integrity, and permeability. In the lung, epithelial cells are attached by TJ structures. They provide a permeable barrier and cell communication. The loss of barrier integrity, which is maintained by the expression of claudins (Cldn), results in cellular permibilization and leads to paracellular diffusion of solutes and harmful molecules. There are 27 known Cldn homologous members in mice and human. Cldn6 is mostly expressed in embryonic stem cells and associated with the programing of epithelial cells during embryo development and lung morphogenesis. In order to test the hypothesis that Cldn6 expression affects lung morphogenesis, we analyzed the expression pattern of Cldn6 during lung ontogenesis to examine cell-specific expression pattern of Cldn6 during each embryonic period in the mouse lung. Also, we assessed transcriptional regulators and control mechanisms that precisely influence Cldn6 expression in pulmonary cells. We discovered that Cldn6 is an important tight junctional component expressed by pulmonary epithelium during lung organogenesis. We found that normal down-regulation of Cldn6 as development proceeds influences differentiation associated with the transition between the embryonic to the alveolar stage. Conditional gain-of-function and loss-of-function experiments in animal models prove to be the most beneficial tool in deciphering the impact of Cldn in organ formation and maintenance. We generated a conditional transgenic mouse that provides the opportunity to genetically up-regulate Cldn6 in distal lung. Our transgenic mouse showed a delay in lung development and down-regulation of transcriptional factors. Cldn6 is both temporally and spatially controlled in the developing lung and its regulation is maintained by critical transcriptional control networks managed by TTF-1. In lung diseases, altered Cldn expression leads to diseases such as COPD, asthma, and ARDS. The tight junctional proteins are differentially regulated by tobacco smoke exposure and Cldn6 is potentially involved as neighboring epithelial cells respond to tobacco smoke. We exposed adult mice to controlled doses of second hand smoke during four days and A-549 cells to 10% CSE for 6 hours. We discovered that mice lungs respond by down-regulating Cldn6 basal levels and impair barrier function. These results reveal that midgestational up-regulation of Cldn6 and its marked down-regulation as development proceeds illustrate the notion that Cldn6 function is important during early programming stages of lung morphogenesis.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Physiology and Developmental Biology



Date Submitted


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claudin 6, mice, transgenic, murine, lung