The molecular pathways regulating cell lineage determination and regeneration in epithelial tissues are poorly understood. The secretory epithelium of the lung is required for production of mucus to help protect the lung against environmental insults, including pathogens and pollution, that can lead to debilitating diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. We show that the transcription factors Foxp1 and Foxp4 act cooperatively to regulate lung secretory epithelial cell fate and regeneration by directly restricting the goblet cell lineage program. Loss of Foxp1/4 in the developing lung and in postnatal secretory epithelium leads to ectopic activation of the goblet cell fate program, in part, through de-repression of the protein disulfide isomerase anterior gradient 2 (Agr2). Forced expression of Agr2 is sufficient to promote the goblet cell fate in the developing airway epithelium. Finally, in a model of lung secretory cell injury and regeneration, we show that loss of Foxp1/4 leads to catastrophic loss of airway epithelial regeneration due to default differentiation of secretory cells into the goblet cell lineage. These data demonstrate the importance of Foxp1/4 in restricting cell fate choices during development and regeneration, thereby providing the proper balance of functional epithelial lineages in the lung.
- Goblet cell