Although profibrotic cytokines, such as IL-17A and TGF-β1, have been implicated in the pathogenesis of interstitial lung disease (ILD), the interactions between gut dysbiosis, gonadotrophic hormones and molecular mediators of profibrotic cytokine expression, such as the phosphorylation of STAT3, have not been defined. Here, through chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIP-seq) analysis of primary human CD4+ T cells, we show that regions within the STAT3 locus are significantly enriched for binding by the transcription factor estrogen receptor alpha (ERa). Using the murine model of bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis, we found significantly increased regulatory T cells compared to Th17 cells in the female lung. The genetic absence of ESR1 or ovariectomy in mice significantly increased pSTAT3 and IL-17A expression in pulmonary CD4+ T cells, which was reduced after the repletion of female hormones. Remarkably, there was no significant reduction in lung fibrosis under either condition, suggesting that factors outside of ovarian hormones also contribute. An assessment of lung fibrosis among menstruating females in different rearing environments revealed that environments favoring gut dysbiosis augment fibrosis. Furthermore, hormone repletion following ovariectomy further augmented lung fibrosis, suggesting pathologic interactions between gonadal hormones and gut microbiota in relation to lung fibrosis severity. An analysis of female sarcoidosis patients revealed a significant reduction in pSTAT3 and IL-17A levels and a concomitant increase in TGF-β1 levels in CD4+ T cells compared to male sarcoidosis patients. These studies reveal that estrogen is profibrotic in females and that gut dysbiosis in menstruating females augments lung fibrosis severity, supporting a critical interaction between gonadal hormones and gut flora in lung fibrosis pathogenesis.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)