Background The bronchial epithelium is in contact with, and continually damaged by, the environment. Animal models have indicated that normal epithelial repair is rapid and supported by the formation of a provisional fibrin matrix that is exclusively plasma-derived.
Objectives Our objectives were to demonstrate the ability of normal human bronchial epithelial (NHBE) cells to produce coagulation cascade proteins and form fibrin in response to damage, independently of plasma proteins, and to show that formation of a cross-linked fibrin matrix is essential for normal epithelial repair in vitro.
Methods Primary NHBE cells and cells of the 16HBE 14o- bronchial epithelial cell line were grown and maintained in vitro prior to mechanical wounding of confluent monolayers in serum-free media. Tissue factor (TF) and factor XIII (FXIII) were visualized on 16HBE 14o- monolayers using immunohistochemistry. The time-dependent expression of TF, factor VII (FVII), factor X (FX), fibrinogen, soluble fibrin, FXIII subunit A (FXIIIA) and D-dimers following wounding of confluent 16HBE 14o- monolayers was investigated using immunoassays. TF and FVII expression at the mRNA level was investigated by RT-PCR. The role of coagulation cascade proteins in the repair response of NHBE and 16HBE 14o- monolayers was investigated using neutralizing antibodies.
Results Active TF was constitutively expressed in 16HBE 14o- cells. Levels of FVII, FX, fibrinogen, soluble fibrin, FXIIIA and D-dimers in culture supernatants increased rapidly and were maximal 20 min after wounding the monolayers. Expression of TF and FVII mRNA was significantly increased 10 and 4 h, respectively, after wounding. Neutralizing antibodies to TF, fibrinogen and FXIIIA significantly inhibited repair of NHBE and 16HBE 14o- cell layers.
Conclusions The bronchial epithelium has the potential to respond rapidly to mechanical damage by forming a cross-linked fibrin matrix that is essential for normal epithelial repair, independently of plasma proteins.