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Inhal Toxicol. 2019 Mar;31(4):147-160. doi: 10.1080/08958378.2019.1624895. Epub 2019 Jun 23.

Acute exposure of mice to hydrochloric acid leads to the development of chronic lung injury and pulmonary fibrosis.

Author information

1
a Frank Reidy Research Center for Bioelectrics , Old Dominion University , Norfolk , VA , USA.
2
b Policlinico Umberto I, La Sapienza University of Rome , Rome , Italy.
3
c School of Medical Diagnostic & Translational Sciences , College of Health Sciences, Old Dominion University , Norfolk , VA , USA.

Abstract

Objective: Accidental exposure to hydrochloric acid (HCl) is associated with acute lung injury in humans, development of long-term chronic airway obstruction, and fibrosis. However, the mechanisms responsible for the progression to pulmonary fibrosis remain unclear. We utilized a mouse model of progressive lung injury from a single exposure to HCl to investigate the effects of HCl on the lower respiratory tract. Materials and methods: HCl (0.05-0.3 N) or saline was injected intratracheally into male C57Bl/6J mice. At 1, 4, 10 and 30 days post instillation, bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) and lung tissues were collected and examined for multiple outcomes. Results and discussion: We observed an early inflammatory response and a late mild inflammation present even at 30 d post HCl exposure. Mice treated with HCl exhibited higher total leukocyte and protein levels in the BALF compared to the vehicle group. This was characterized by increased number of neutrophils, monocytes, and lymphocytes as well as pro-inflammatory cytokines during the first 4 d of injury. The late inflammatory response exhibited a predominant presence of mononuclear cells, increased permeability to protein, and higher levels of the pro-fibrotic mediator TGFβ. Pro-fibrotic protein biomarkers, phosphorylated ERK, and HSP90, were also overexpressed at 10 and 30 d following HCl exposure. In vivo lung function measurements demonstrated lung dysfunction and chronic lung injury associated with increased lung hydroxyproline content and increased expression of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins. The acute inflammation and severity of fibrosis increased in HCl-concentration dependent manner. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that the initial inflammatory response and pro-fibrotic biomarker upregulation may be linked to the progression of pulmonary fibrosis and airway dysfunction and may represent valuable therapeutic targets.

KEYWORDS:

Hydrochloric acid exposure; acute lung injury; chronic lung injury; hsp90; mouse model; pulmonary fibrosis

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