Enzyme That Regulates Lung Epithelial Stem Cells Discovered!

David Warburton and Ahmed El-Hashash of The Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles have discovered that Eya1, a protein phosphatase enzyme is a key regulator in the development of stem cells in lung epithelium.

Proper functioning of epithelial cells of lung is needed for the lung to be healthy. The characteristic feature of these epithelial stem cells is polarity. In other words, these cells are asymmetrically oriented (they have a distinct front and a distinct back). This aspect of cell polarity is crucial to the lung development.

In some cases, it was observed that improper regulation of cell polarity lead to cancer of lungs and some developmental disorders.

Till now, very little was known about embryonic lung epithelial stem cells fate, polarity and self-renewal capacity.

It was known even before this current study that in pulmonary (lung) epithelial cells loss of cell polarity can lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer.

The current study conducted on mice, resulted in the discovery that Eya1 is the enzyme that regulates this essential cell polarity, self-renewal and cell fate in the embryonic lung epithelial stem cells.

The first finding that these epithelial stem cells are polarized with perpendicular cell divisions as their characteristic feature is another result of this study.

Experiments conducted in vitro (in the lab) and in vivo (in a living organism) showed that interference in the functioning of Eya1 phosphatase enzyme resulted in the epithelial cell polarity that was defective.

As a result, several other signaling processes and cell divisions got affected, indicating the key role of regulator of the Eya1 enzyme for the proper development of stem cells of lung epithelium in embryonic stage.

These findings pave a way to know in detail, the functionality of Eya1 enzyme in people who are victims of lung cancer and other developmental disorders.

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