Oxygen differentially affects the hox proteins Hoxb5 and Hoxa5 altering airway branching and lung vascular formation
Hyperoxia is closely linked with the development of chronic lung disease of prematurity (CLD), but the exact mechanisms whereby hyperoxia alters the lung architecture in the developing lung remain largely unknown. We developed a fetal human lung organ culture model to investigate (a) the morphologic changes induced by hyperoxia and (b) whether hyperoxia resulted in differential cellular responses in the epithelium and interstitium. The effects of hyperoxia on lung morphometry were analyzed using computer-assisted image analysis. The lung architecture remained largely unchanged in normoxia lasting as long as 4 d. In contrast, hyperoxic culture of pseudoglandular fetal lungs resulted in significant dilatation of airways, thinning of the epithelium, and regression of the interstitium including the pulmonary vasculature. Although there were no significant differences in Ki67 between normoxic and hyperoxic lungs, activated caspase-3 was significantly increased in interstitial cells, but not epithelial cells, under hyperoxic conditions. These changes show that exposure of pseudoglandular lungs to hyperoxia modulates the lung architecture to resemble saccular lungs.