Phenotypic changes in lung fibroblasts are believed to contribute to the development of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF), a progressive and fatal lung disease. Long intergenic non-coding RNAs (lincRNAs) have been identified as novel regulators of gene expression and protein activity. In non-stimulated cells, we observed reduced proliferation and inflammation but no difference in the fibrotic response of IPF fibroblasts. These functional changes in non-stimulated cells were associated with changes in the expression of the histone marks, H3K4me1, H3K4me3 and H3K27ac indicating a possible involvement of epigenetics. Following activation with TGF-β1 and IL-1β, we demonstrated an increased fibrotic but reduced inflammatory response in IPF fibroblasts. There was no significant difference in proliferation following PDGF exposure. The lincRNAs, LINC00960 and LINC01140 were upregulated in IPF fibroblasts. Knockdown studies showed that LINC00960 and LINC01140 were positive regulators of proliferation in both control and IPF fibroblasts but had no effect upon the fibrotic response. Knockdown of LINC01140 but not LINC00960 increased the inflammatory response, which was greater in IPF compared to control fibroblasts. Overall, these studies demonstrate for the first time that lincRNAs are important regulators of proliferation and inflammation in human lung fibroblasts and that these might mediate the reduced inflammatory response observed in IPF-derived fibroblasts.
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