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Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 1998 Jan;18(1):43-50.

Exposure to hyperoxia induces p53 expression in mouse lung epithelium.

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Department of Pediatrics (Neonatology), School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Rochester, New York 14642, USA.


Cells that are exposed to free radicals have increased levels of DNA strand breaks with accumulation of the tumor suppressor protein p53, which induces cell cycle arrest and/or apoptosis. Because oxidants injure pulmonary epithelial cells, it was hypothesized that exposure to hyperoxia promotes DNA strand breaks in lung epithelium, resulting in increased expression of p53 and loss of epithelial cell function. Adult male C57Bl/6J mice were exposed to > 95% oxygen for 72 h and DNA integrity was determined in their lungs by terminal transferase immunoreactivity. Both nonimmunoreactive and lightly stained nuclei were observed in cells comprising the airway and parenchyma. Exposure to hyperoxia resulted in a marked increase in the intensity of nuclear staining in distal bronchiolar epithelium and alveolar epithelial and endothelial cells. Airway epithelial cells from control lungs contained detectable levels of p53 protein, which markedly increased in both nuclei and cytoplasm of distal bronchiolar epithelial cells and to a lesser extent in alveolar epithelial cells that were morphologically consistent with type II cells. Western and Northern blot analyses revealed that hyperoxia increased total lung p53 protein expression but not levels of mRNA. Changes in terminal transferase immunoreactivity and p53 expression were not observed in large airway cells, fibroblasts underlying distal airway, or smooth muscle cells. Expression of SP-B mRNA modestly increased and Clara cell secretory protein and cytochrome P-450 2F2 mRNAs decreased, providing additional evidence that hyperoxia injured pulmonary epithelial cells. These findings support the concept that hyperoxia damages DNA of pulmonary epithelial cells, which respond by accumulating p53 and changes in epithelial cell-specific gene expression.

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