Conditional clara cell ablation reveals a self-renewing progenitor function of pulmonary neuroendocrine cells

S D Reynolds, K U Hong, A Giangreco, G W Mango, C Guron, Y Morimoto, B R Stripp

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204 Citations (Scopus)


The neuroepithelial body (NEB) is a highly dynamic structure that responds to chronic airway injury through hyperplasia of associated pulmonary neuroendocrine (PNE) cells. Although NEB dysplasia is correlated with preneoplastic conditions and PNE cells are thought to serve as a precursor for development of small cell lung carcinoma, mechanisms regulating expansion of the PNE cell population are not well understood. Based on studies performed in animal models, it has been suggested that NEB-associated progenitor cells that are phenotypically distinct from PNE cells contribute to PNE cell hyperplasia. We have previously used a Clara cell-specific toxicant, naphthalene, to induce airway injury in mice and have demonstrated that naphthalene-resistant Clara cells, characterized by their expression of Clara cell secretory protein (CCSP), and PNE cells contribute to airway repair and associated hyperplasia of NEBs. This study was conducted to define the contribution of NEB-associated CCSP-expressing progenitor cells to PNE cell hyperplasia after Clara cell ablation. Transgenic (CCtk) mice were generated in which herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase was expressed within all CCSP-expressing cells of the conducting airway epithelium through the use of transcriptional regulatory elements from the mouse CCSP promoter. Chronic administration of ganciclovir (GCV) to CCtk transgenic mice resulted in selective ablation of CCSP-expressing cells within conducting airways. Proliferation and hyperplasia of PNE cells occurred in the absence of detectable proliferation among any other residual airway epithelial cell populations. These results demonstrate that PNE cells function as a self-renewing progenitor population and that NEB-associated Clara cells are not necessary for PNE cell hyperplasia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L1256-63
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number6
Publication statusPrint publication - Jun 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Animals
  • Ganciclovir/pharmacology
  • Hyperplasia
  • Lung/pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neurosecretory Systems/drug effects
  • Proteins/genetics
  • Stem Cells/physiology
  • Uteroglobin


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