Differential effects of Nintedanib and Pirfenidone on lung alveolar epithelial cell function in ex vivo murine and human lung tissue cultures of pulmonary fibrosis 11 Medical and Health Sciences 1102 Cardiorespiratory Medicine and Haematology 06 Biological Sciences 0601 Biochemistry and Cell Biology

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a fatal interstitial lung disease. Repetitive injury and reprogramming of the lung epithelium are thought to be critical drivers of disease progression, contributing to fibroblast activation, extracellular matrix remodeling, and subsequently loss of lung architecture and function. To date, Pirfenidone and Nintedanib are the only approved drugs known to decelerate disease progression, however, if and how these drugs affect lung epithelial cell function, remains largely unexplored. Methods: We treated murine and human 3D ex vivo lung tissue cultures (3D-LTCs; generated from precision cut lung slices (PCLS)) as well as primary murine alveolar epithelial type II (pmATII) cells with Pirfenidone or Nintedanib. Murine 3D-LTCs or pmATII cells were derived from the bleomycin model of fibrosis. Early fibrotic changes were induced in human 3D-LTCs by a mixture of profibrotic factors. Epithelial and mesenchymal cell function was determined by qPCR, Western blotting, Immunofluorescent staining, and ELISA. Results: Low μM concentrations of Nintedanib (1 μM) and mM concentrations of Pirfenidone (2.5 mM) reduced fibrotic gene expression including Collagen 1a1 and Fibronectin in murine and human 3D-LTCs as well as pmATII cells. Notably, Nintedanib stabilized expression of distal lung epithelial cell markers, especially Surfactant Protein C in pmATII cells as well as in murine and human 3D-LTCs. Conclusions: Pirfenidone and Nintedanib exhibit distinct effects on murine and human epithelial cells, which might contribute to their anti-fibrotic action. Human 3D-LTCs represent a valuable tool to assess anti-fibrotic mechanisms of potential drugs for the treatment of IPF patients.


  • Mareike Lehmann
  • Lara Buhl
  • Hani N. Alsafadi
  • Stephan Klee
  • Sarah Hermann
  • Kathrin Mutze
  • Chiharu Ota
  • Michael Lindner
  • Jürgen Behr
  • Anne Hilgendorff
  • Darcy E. Wagner
  • Melanie Königshoff
External organisations
  • Helmholtz Zentrum München
  • University Hospital Munich
  • Asklepios Fachkliniken München-Gauting
  • University of Colorado
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Respiratory Medicine and Allergy


  • ATII, Epithelial cells, ex vivo, IPF, Lung disease, Nintedanib, PCLS, Pirfenidone
Original languageEnglish
Article number175
JournalRespiratory Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Sep 15
Publication categoryResearch