Claudin 18 (CLDN18) is a tight junction protein that is highly expressed in the lung. While mice lacking CLDN18 exhibit the expected loss of epithelial integrity in the lung, these animals also have unexpectedly large lungs. In this issue of the JCI, Zhou, Flodby, and colleagues reveal that the increased lung size of Cldn18–/– mice is the result of increased type 2 alveolar epithelial (AT2) cell proliferation. This increase in proliferation was shown to be driven by translocation of the transcriptional regulator Yes-associated protein (YAP) to the nucleus and subsequent induction of proliferative pathways. CLDN18-deficent mice also had increased frequency of lung adenocarcinomas. Together, the results of this study advance our understanding of the mechanisms that likely regulate homeostasis of the normal lung as well as promote the proliferative state of malignant cells found in lung adenocarcinomas thought to originate from AT2 cells.
Darrell N. Kotton