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Hyperoxia disrupts pulmonary epithelial barrier in newborn rats via the deterioration of occludin and ZO-1

Kai You, Xuewen Xu, Jianhua Fu, Shuyan Xu, Xiaohong Yue, Zhiling Yu, Xindong Xue
Respiratory Research 2012, 13: 36
22559818

BACKGROUND: Prolonged exposure to hyperoxia in neonates can cause hyperoxic acute lung injury (HALI), which is characterized by increased pulmonary permeability and diffuse infiltration of various inflammatory cells. Disruption of the epithelial barrier may lead to altered pulmonary permeability and maintenance of barrier properties requires intact epithelial tight junctions (TJs). However, in neonatal animals, relatively little is known about how the TJ proteins are expressed in the pulmonary epithelium, including whether expression of TJ proteins is regulated in response to hyperoxia exposure. This study determines whether changes in tight junctions play an important role in disruption of the pulmonary epithelial barrier during hyperoxic acute lung injury.

METHODS: Newborn rats, randomly divided into two groups, were exposed to hyperoxia (95% oxygen) or normoxia for 1-7 days, and the severity of lung injury was assessed; location and expression of key tight junction protein occludin and ZO-1 were examined by immunofluorescence staining and immunobloting; messenger RNA in lung tissue was studied by RT-PCR; transmission electron microscopy study was performed for the detection of tight junction morphology.

RESULTS: We found that different durations of hyperoxia exposure caused different degrees of lung injury in newborn rats. Treatment with hyperoxia for prolonged duration contributed to more serious lung injury, which was characterized by increased wet-to-dry ratio, extravascular lung water content, and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF):serum FD4 ratio. Transmission electron microscopy study demonstrated that hyperoxia destroyed the structure of tight junctions and prolonged hyperoxia exposure, enhancing the structure destruction. The results were compatible with pathohistologic findings. We found that hyperoxia markedly disrupted the membrane localization and downregulated the cytoplasm expression of the key tight junction proteins occludin and ZO-1 in the alveolar epithelium by immunofluorescence. The changes of messenger RNA and protein expression of occludin and ZO-1 in lung tissue detected by RT-PCR and immunoblotting were consistent with the degree of lung injury.

CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest that the disruption of the pulmonary epithelial barrier induced by hyperoxia is, at least in part, due to massive deterioration in the expression and localization of key TJ proteins.

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