Chronic lung disease in preterm lambs: Effect of daily vitamin A treatment on alveolarization

Kurt H. Albertine, Mar Janna Dahl, Linda W. Gonzales, Zheng Ming Wang, Drew Metcalfe, Dallas M. Hyde, Charles Plopper, Barry C. Starcher, David P. Carlton, Richard D. Bland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Neonatal chronic lung disease is characterized by failed formation of alveoli and capillaries, and excessive deposition of matrix elastin, which are linked to lengthy mechanical ventilation (MV) with O2-rich gas. Vitamin A supplementation has improved respiratory outcome of premature infants, but there is little information about the structural and molecular manifestations in the lung that occur with vitamin A treatment. We hypothesized that vitamin A supplementation during prolonged MV, without confounding by antenatal steroid treatment, would improve alveolar secondary septation, decrease thickness of the mesenchymal tissue cores between distal air space walls, and increase alveolar capillary growth. We further hypothesized that these structural advancements would be associated with modulated expression of tropoelastin and deposition of matrix elastin, phosphorylated Smad2 (pSmad2), cleaved caspase 3, proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), VEGF, VEGF-R2, and midkine in the parenchyma of the immature lung. Eight preterm lambs (125 days' gestation, term ∼150 days) were managed by MV for 3 wk: four were treated with daily intramuscular Aquasol A (vitamin A), 5,000 IU/kg, starting at birth; four received vehicle alone. Postmortem lung assays included quantitative RT-PCR and in situ hybridization, immunoblot and immunohistochemistry, and morphometry and stereology. Daily vitamin A supplementation increased alveolar secondary septation, decreased thickness of the mesenchymal tissue cores between the distal air space walls, and increased alveolar capillary growth. Associated molecular changes were less tropoelastin mRNA expression, matrix elastin deposition, pSmad2, and PCNA protein localization in the mesenchymal tissue core of the distal air space walls. On the other hand, mRNA expression and protein abundance of VEGF, VEGF-R2, midkine, and cleaved caspase 3 were increased. We conclude that vitamin A treatment partially improves lung development in chronically ventilated preterm neonates by modulating expression of tropoelastin, deposition of elastin, and expression of vascular growth factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2010


  • Alveolar capillary growth
  • Alveolar formation
  • Bronchopulmonary dysplasia
  • Elastin
  • Lung growth and development
  • Midkine
  • Smad
  • TGF-β
  • Tropoelastin
  • VEGF
  • VEGF-R2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology
  • Physiology


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