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Pneumonitis and fibrosis are major lung complications of irradiating thoracic malignancies. In the current study, we determined the effect of thoracic irradiation on the lungs of FVB/N mice. Survival data showed a dose-dependent increase in morbidity following thoracic irradiation with single (11-13 Gy) and fractionated doses (24-36 Gy) of (137)Cs γ-rays. Histological examination showed a thickening of vessel walls, accumulation of inflammatory cells, collagen deposition, and regional fibrosis in the lungs 14 weeks after a single 12 Gy dose and a fractionated 30 Gy dose; this damage was also seen 5 months after a fractionated 24 Gy dose. After both single and fractionated doses, i] aquaporin-5 was markedly decreased, ii] E-cadherin was reduced and iii] prosurfactant Protein C (pro-SP-c), the number of pro-SP-c(+) cells and vimentin expression were increased in the lungs. Immunofluorescence analysis revealed co-localization of pro-SP-c and α-smooth muscle actin in the alveoli after a single dose of 12 Gy. These data suggest that, i] the FVB/N mouse strain is sensitive to thoracic radiation ii] aquaporin-5, E-cadherin, and pro-SP-c may serve as sensitive indicators of radiation-induced lung injury; and iii] the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition may play an important role in the development of radiation-induced lung fibrosis.


Celine Almeida, Devipriya Nagarajan, Jian Tian, Sofia Walder Leal, Kenneth Wheeler, Michael Munley, William Blackstock, Weiling Zhao. The role of alveolar epithelium in radiation-induced lung injury. PloS one. 2013;8(1):e53628

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PMID: 23326473

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