Current hypotheses suggest that aberrant wound healing has a critical role in the pathogenesis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). In these hypotheses, continuous TGF-β1 secretion by alveolar epithelial cells (AECs) in abnormal wound healing has a critical role in promoting fibroblast differentiation into myofibroblasts. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) home to the injury site and reduce fibrosis by secreting multifunctional antifibrotic humoral factors in IPF. In this study, we show that MSCs can correct the inadequate-communication between epithelial and mesenchymal cells through STC1 (Stanniocalcin-1) secretion in a bleomycin-induced IPF model. Inhalation of recombinant STC1 shows the same effects as the injection of MSCs. Using STC1 plasmid, it was possible to enhance the ability of MSCs to ameliorate the fibrosis. MSCs secrete large amounts of STC1 in response to TGF-β1 in comparison to AECs and fibroblasts. The antifibrotic effects of STC1 include reducing oxidative stress, endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, and TGF-β1 production in AECs. The STC1 effects can be controlled by blocking uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2) and the secretion is affected by the PI3/AKT/mTORC1 inhibitors. Our findings suggest that STC1 tends to correct the inappropriate epithelial-mesenchymal relationships and that STC1 plasmid transfected to MSCs or STC1 inhalation could become promising treatments for IPF.
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