PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles

Critical Care and Emergency Medicine - Molecular Biology - Respiratory Medicine

Activation of the Wnt/ß-Catenin Signaling Pathway by Mechanical Ventilation Is Associated with Ventilator-Induced Pulmonary Fibrosis in Healthy Lungs
Published: Thursday, September 15, 2011
Author: Jesús Villar et al.

by Jesús Villar, Nuria E. Cabrera, Francisco Valladares, Milena Casula, Carlos Flores, Lluís Blanch, María Elisa Quilez, Norberto Santana-Rodríguez, Robert M. Kacmarek, Arthur S. Slutsky


Mechanical ventilation (MV) with high tidal volumes (VT) can cause or aggravate lung damage, so-called ventilator induced lung injury (VILI). The relationship between specific mechanical events in the lung and the cellular responses that result in VILI remains incomplete. Since activation of Wnt/ß-catenin signaling has been suggested to be central to mechanisms of lung healing and fibrosis, we hypothesized that the Wnt/ß-catenin signaling plays a role during VILI.

Methodology/Principal Findings

Prospective, randomized, controlled animal study using adult, healthy, male Sprague-Dawley rats. Animals (n?=?6/group) were randomized to spontaneous breathing or two strategies of MV for 4 hours: low tidal volume (VT) (6 mL/kg) or high VT (20 mL/kg). Histological evaluation of lung tissue, measurements of WNT5A, total ß-catenin, non-phospho (Ser33/37/Thr41) ß-catenin, matrix metalloproteinase-7 (MMP-7), cyclin D1, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and axis inhibition protein 2 (AXIN2) protein levels by Western blot, and WNT5A, non-phospho (Ser33/37/Thr41) ß-catenin, MMP-7, and AXIN2 immunohistochemical localization in the lungs were analyzed. High-VT MV caused lung inflammation and perivascular edema with cellular infiltrates and collagen deposition. Protein levels of WNT5A, non-phospho (Ser33/37/Thr41) ß-catenin, MMP-7, cyclin D1, VEGF, and AXIN2 in the lungs were increased in all ventilated animals although high-VT MV was associated with significantly higher levels of WNT5A, non-phospho (Ser33/37/Thr41) ß-catenin, MMP-7, cyclin D1, VEGF, and AXIN2 levels.


Our findings demonstrate that the Wnt/ß-catenin signaling pathway is modulated very early by MV in lungs without preexistent lung disease, suggesting that activation of this pathway could play an important role in both VILI and lung repair. Modulation of this pathway might represent a therapeutic option for prevention and/or management of VILI.