Theranostics 2022; 12(2):530-541. doi:10.7150/thno.62760 This issue

Research Paper

Modulation of H4K16Ac levels reduces pro-fibrotic gene expression and mitigates lung fibrosis in aged mice

Xiangyu Zhang, Hui Liu, Jennifer Q Zhou, Stefanie Krick, Jarrod W Barnes, Victor J Thannickal, Yan Y Sanders

Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA.

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Citation:
Zhang X, Liu H, Zhou JQ, Krick S, Barnes JW, Thannickal VJ, Sanders YY. Modulation of H4K16Ac levels reduces pro-fibrotic gene expression and mitigates lung fibrosis in aged mice. Theranostics 2022; 12(2):530-541. doi:10.7150/thno.62760. Available from https://www.thno.org/v12p0530.htm

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Abstract

Graphic abstract

Histone H4 lysine16 acetylation (H4K16Ac) modulates chromatin structure by serving as a switch from a repressive to a transcriptionally active state. This euchromatin mark is associated with active transcription. In this study, we investigated the effects of H4K16Ac on the expression of pro-fibrotic genes in lung fibroblasts from patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and in an aging murine model of lung fibrosis.

Methods: The lung tissues and fibroblasts from human IPF/non-IPF donors and from aged mice with/without bleomycin induced lung fibrosis were used in this study. The H4K16Ac levels were examined by immunohistochemistry or western blots. RNA silencing of H4K16Ac acetyltransferase Mof was used to reduce H4K16Ac levels in IPF fibroblasts. The effects of reduced H4K16Ac on pro-fibrotic gene expression were examined by western blots and real-time PCR. The association of H4K16Ac with these genes' promoter region were evaluated by ChIP assays. The gene expression profile in siRNA Mof transfected IPF cells were determined by RNA-Seq. The impact of H4K16Ac levels on lung fibrosis was evaluated in an aging murine model.

Results: Aged mice with bleomycin induced lung fibrosis showed increased H4K16Ac levels. Human lung fibroblasts with siRNA Mof silencing demonstrated reduced H4K16Ac, and significantly down-regulated profibrotic genes, such as α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA), collagen I, Nox4, and survivin. ChIP assays confirmed the associations of these pro-fibrotic genes' promoter region with H4K16Ac, while in siRNA Mof transfected cells the promoter/H4K16Ac associations were depleted. RNA-seq data demonstrated that Mof knockdown altered gene expression and cellular pathways, including cell damage and repair. In the aging mice model of persistent lung fibrosis, 18-month old mice given intra-nasal siRNA Mof from week 3 to 6 following bleomycin injury showed improved lung architecture, decreased total hydroxyproline content and lower levels of H4K16Ac.

Conclusions: These results indicate a critical epigenetic regulatory role for histone H4K16Ac in the pathogenesis of pulmonary fibrosis, which will aid in the development of novel therapeutic strategies for age-related diseases such as IPF.

Keywords: H4K16Ac, Mof, aging, lung fibrosis, fibrotic gene expression