NTx scientists publish in American J. of Physiol.

Aug 10, 2021

FAM13A as potential therapeutic target in modulating TGF-beta-induced airway tissue remodeling in COPD | AJP-Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology

Tam et al. 10 August 2021

Featuring Drs. Anthony Tam, Jayesh A Kulkarni, Dominik Witzigmann and Pieter R Cullis from NanoVation Therapeutics™.


Genome-wide association studies have shown that a gene variant in the Family with sequence similarity 13, member A (FAM13A) is strongly associated with reduced lung function and the appearance of respiratory symptoms in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). A key player in smoking-induced tissue injury and airway remodeling is the transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1). To determine the role of FAM13A in TGF-β1 signaling, FAM13A−/− airway epithelial cells were generated using CRISPR-Cas9, whereas overexpression of FAM13A was achieved using lipid nanoparticles. Wild-type (WT) and FAM13A−/− cells were treated with TGF-β1, followed by gene and/or protein expression analyses. FAM13A−/− cells augmented TGF-β1-induced increase in collagen type 1 (COL1A1), matrix metalloproteinase 2 (MMP2), expression compared with WT cells. This effect was mediated by an increase in β-catenin (CTNNB1) expression in FAM13A−/− cells compared with WT cells after TGF-β1 treatment. FAM13A overexpression was partially protective from TGF-β1-induced COL1A1 expression. Finally, we showed that airway epithelial-specific FAM13A protein expression is significantly increased in patients with severe COPD compared with control nonsmokers, and negatively correlated with lung function. In contrast, β-catenin (CTNNB1), which has previously been linked to be regulated by FAM13A, is decreased in the airway epithelium of smokers with COPD compared with non-COPD subjects. Together, our data showed that FAM13A may be protective from TGF-β1-induced fibrotic response in the airway epithelium via sequestering CTNNB1 from its regulation on downstream targets. Therapeutic increase in FAM13A expression in the airway epithelium of smokers at risk for COPD, and those with mild COPD, may reduce the extent of airway tissue remodeling.