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Am J Pathol. 2000 Aug;157(2):597-603.

Protection from lethal apoptosis in lipopolysaccharide-induced acute lung injury in mice by a caspase inhibitor.

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Research Institute for Diseases of the Chest, Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan.


LPS (lipopolysaccharide) is one of the major factors that induce acute lung injury. Recently, it was reported that LPS induced disseminated endothelial apoptosis, preceding nonendothelial tissue damage. Caspases play important roles in apoptosis, including tumor necrosis factor-alpha-induced apoptosis, in several systems. We therefore investigated whether the injection of a caspase inhibitor prevents LPS-induced apoptosis and acute lung injury in mice. LPS (30 mg/kg) was administered intravenously to Institute for Cancer Research mice. Electron microscopic findings demonstrated characteristic features of apoptosis in endothelial cells and alveolar epithelial cells. The caspase-3 activity and the number of terminal dUTP nick-end labeling-positive cells in lung tissues were significantly increased after LPS administration. Benzyloxycarbonil-Val-Ala-Asp fluoromethylketone (Z-VAD.fmk), which is a broad-spectrum caspase inhibitor, was injected before and after the administration of LPS. The injection of Z-VAD.fmk suppressed the caspase-3 activity in lung tissues, and significantly decreased the number of terminal dUTP nick-end labeling-positive cells. Furthermore, the survival rate of mice was prolonged significantly by the injection of Z-VAD.fmk. These results indicate that apoptosis may play an important role in acute lung injury, and thus that inhibition of caspase activity may constitute a new therapeutic approach for treatment of this disease.

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