In recent years, there has been an explosion of interest in how fibroblasts initiate, sustain, and resolve inflammation across disease states. Fibroblasts contain heterogeneous subsets with diverse functionality. The phenotypes of these populations vary depending on their spatial distribution within the tissue and the immunopathologic cues contributing to disease progression. In addition to their roles in structurally supporting organs and remodeling tissue, fibroblasts mediate critical interactions with diverse immune cells. These interactions have important implications for defining mechanisms of disease and identifying potential therapeutic targets. Fibroblasts in the respiratory tract, in particular, determine the severity and outcome of numerous acute and chronic lung diseases, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Here, we review recent studies defining the spatiotemporal identity of the lung-derived fibroblasts and the mechanisms by which these subsets regulate immune responses to insult exposures and highlight past, current, and future therapeutic targets with relevance to fibroblast biology in the context of acute and chronic human respiratory diseases. This perspective highlights the importance of tissue context in defining fibroblast-immune crosstalk and paves the way for identifying therapeutic approaches to benefit patients with acute and chronic pulmonary disorders.
Mohamed A. Ghonim, David F. Boyd, Tim Flerlage, Paul G. Thomas