The integrity of the lung alveolar epithelial barrier is required for the gas exchange and is important for immune regulation. Alveolar epithelial barrier is composed of flat type I cells, which make up approximately 95% of the gas-exchange surface, and cuboidal type II cells, which secrete surfactants and modulate lung immunity. p120-catenin (p120; gene symbol CTNND1) is an important component of adherens junctions of epithelial cells; however, its function in lung alveolar epithelial barrier has not been addressed in genetic models. Here, we created an inducible type II cell-specific p120-knockout mouse (p120EKO). The mutant lungs showed chronic inflammation, and the alveolar epithelial barrier was leaky to (125)I-albumin tracer compared to wild type. The mutant lungs also demonstrated marked infiltration of inflammatory cells and activation of NF-κB. Intracellular adhesion molecule 1, Toll-like receptor 4, and macrophage inflammatory protein 2 were all up-regulated. p120EKO lungs showed increased expression of the surfactant proteins Sp-B, Sp-C, and Sp-D, and displayed severe inflammation after pneumonia caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa compared with wild type. In p120-deficient type II cell monolayers, we observed reduced transepithelial resistance compared to control, consistent with formation of defective adherens junctions. Thus, although type II cells constitute only 5% of the alveolar surface area, p120 expressed in these cells plays a critical role in regulating the innate immunity of the entire lung.
Copyright © 2015 American Society for Investigative Pathology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.