Anchorage-independent colony growth of pulmonary fibroblasts derived from fibrotic human lung tissue.
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Fibroblast heterogeneity is known to exist in chronically inflamed tissue such as pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and scleroderma. We have previously shown differences in proliferation rates in primary lines and cloned lines of fibroblasts derived from IPF tissue compared with normal lung. In this study, we report that cell lines derived from fibrotic tissue demonstrate anchorage-independent growth in soft agarose culture whereas normal lung fibroblast lines do not. We also show that fibroblast lines derived from neonatal lung tissue form colonies at about the same frequency as the fibrotic cells. Colonies from both fibrotic and neonatal lines were shown to be positive for vimentin, laminin, fibronectin, fibronectin receptor, beta-actin, and tropomyosin by immunohistochemistry but were negative for desmin, keratin, Factor VIII, alpha-smooth muscle cell actin, and tenascin. Treatment with cytokines TGF-beta and PDGF or with corticosteroid modified the colony-forming capacity of fibrotic and neonatal cell lines, however, none of these treatments induced normal lung cell lines to form colonies. The presence of cells in adult fibrotic tissue with growth characteristics similar to those exhibited by neonatal cells is further evidence of fibroblast heterogeneity and suggests newly differentiated fibroblasts may be prevalent in fibrotic tissue and contribute directly to the matrix disorder seen in this disease.