R-Spondin2, a Positive Canonical WNT Signaling Regulator, Controls the Expansion and Differentiation of Distal Lung Epithelial Stem/Progenitor Cells in Mice

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal Title

International journal of molecular sciences


The lungs have a remarkable ability to regenerate damaged tissues caused by acute injury. Many lung diseases, especially chronic lung diseases, are associated with a reduced or disrupted regeneration potential of the lungs. Therefore, understanding the underlying mechanisms of the regenerative capacity of the lungs offers the potential to identify novel therapeutic targets for these diseases. R-spondin2, a co-activator of WNT/β-catenin signaling, plays an important role in embryonic murine lung development. However, the role of in adult lung homeostasis and regeneration remains unknown. The aim of this study is to determine function in distal lung stem/progenitor cells and adult lung regeneration. In this study, we found that robust expression was detected in different epithelial cells, including airway club cells and alveolar type 2 (AT2) cells in the adult lungs. However, expression significantly decreased during the first week after naphthalene-induced airway injury and was restored by day 14 post-injury. In ex vivo 3D organoid culture, recombinant RSPO2 promoted the colony formation and differentiation of both club and AT2 cells through the activation of canonical WNT signaling. In contrast, ablation in club and AT2 cells significantly disrupted their expansion capacity in the ex vivo 3D organoid culture. Furthermore, mice lacking showed significant defects in airway regeneration after naphthalene-induced injury. Our results strongly suggest that RSPO2 plays a key role in the adult lung epithelial stem/progenitor cells during homeostasis and regeneration, and therefore, it may be a potential therapeutic target for chronic lung diseases with reduced regenerative capability.