TBX4 is involved in the super-enhancer-driven transcriptional programs underlying features specific to lung fibroblasts

Masafumi Horie, Naoya Miyashita, Yu Mikami, Satoshi Noguchi, Yasuhiro Yamauchi, Maho Suzukawa, Takeshi Fukami, Ken Ohta, Yoshihide Asano, Shinichi Sato, Yoko Yamaguchi, Mitsuhiro Ohshima, Hiroshi I. Suzuki, Akira Saito, Takahide Nagase

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Lung fibroblasts participate in the pathogenesis of respiratory diseases, including lung cancer and pulmonary fibrosis. Although fibroblasts are ubiquitous constituents of various organs, their cellular diversity among different organs has been poorly characterized. Here, we aimed to investigate the distinct gene signature of lung fibroblasts that represents its pulmonary origin and the underlying gene regulatory networks. Promoter-level differential expression analysis by cap analysis of gene expression (CAGE) sequencing revealed distinct gene expression patterns of fibroblasts derived from different anatomical sites and identified 88 coding genes with higher expression in lung fibroblasts relative to other fibroblasts. Multiple key transcription factors important for lung mesenchyme development, including the T-box transcription factors TBX2, TBX4, and TBX5 were enriched in this lung-specific signature and were associated with super-enhancers. TBX4 showed highly specific expression in lung fibroblasts and was required for cell proliferation and collagen gel contraction capacity. Transcriptome analysis revealed that TBX4 could broadly regulate fibroblast-related pathways and partly contribute to super-enhancer-mediated transcriptional programs. Of pathological importance, lung fibroblast-specific genes were globally downregulated in lung cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs). Notably, TBX2, TBX4, and TBX5 were downregulated and hypermethylated in lung CAFs, suggesting an association between epigenetic silencing of these factors and phenotypic alteration of lung fibroblasts in cancer. Our study highlights the importance of T-box transcription factors, especially TBX4, and super-enhancers in the roles of lung fibroblasts in pulmonary physiology and pathogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L177-L191
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018


  • CAGE
  • Cancer-associated fibroblast
  • Super-enhancer
  • TBX4


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