Hyperoxia-induced apoptosis and Fas/FasL expression in lung epithelial cells

Monique E De Paepe, Quanfu Mao, Yvonne Chao, Jessica L Powell, Lewis P Rubin, Surendra Sharma
American Journal of Physiology. Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology 2005, 289 (4): L647-59
Alveolar epithelial apoptosis is an important feature of hyperoxia-induced lung injury in vivo and has been described in the early stages of bronchopulmonary dysplasia (chronic lung disease of preterm newborn). Molecular regulation of hyperoxia-induced alveolar epithelial cell death remains incompletely understood. In view of functional involvement of Fas/FasL system in physiological postcanalicular type II cell apoptosis, we speculated this system may also be a critical regulator of hyperoxia-induced apoptosis. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of hyperoxia on apoptosis and apoptotic gene expression in alveolar epithelial cells. Apoptosis was studied by TUNEL, electron microscopy, DNA size analysis, and caspase assays. Fas/FasL expression was determined by Western blot analysis and RPA. We determined that in MLE-12 cells exposed to hyperoxia, caspase-mediated apoptosis was the first morphologically and biochemically recognizable mode of cell death, followed by necrosis of residual adherent cells. The apoptotic stage was associated with a threefold upregulation of Fas mRNA and protein expression and increased susceptibility to direct Fas receptor activation, concomitant with a threefold increase of FasL protein levels. Fas gene silencing by siRNAs significantly reduced hyperoxia-induced apoptosis. In murine fetal type II cells, hyperoxia similarly induced markedly increased Fas/FasL protein expression, confirming validity of results obtained in transformed MLE-12 cells. Our findings implicate the Fas/FasL system as an important regulator of hyperoxia-induced type II cell apoptosis. Elucidation of regulation of hyperoxia-induced lung apoptosis may lead to alternative therapeutic strategies for perinatal or adult pulmonary diseases characterized by dysregulated type II cell apoptosis.

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