Pulmonary apoptosis in aged and oxygen-tolerant rats exposed to hyperoxia
Accumulating evidence demonstrates that genotoxic and oxidant stress can induce programmed cell death or apoptosis in cultured cells. However, little is known about whether oxidative stress resulting from the deleterious effects of hyperoxia can induce apoptosis in vivo and even less is known regarding the functional significance of apoptosis in vivo in response to hyperoxia. Using hyperoxia as a model of oxidant-induced lung injury in the rat, we show that hyperoxic stress results in marked apoptotic signals in the lung. Lung tissue sections obtained from rats exposed to hyperoxia exhibit increased apoptosis in a time-dependent manner by terminal transferase dUTP nick end labeling assays. To examine whether hyperoxia-induced apoptosis in the lung correlated with the extent of lung injury or tolerance (adaptation) to hyperoxia, we investigated the pattern of apoptosis with a rat model of age-dependent tolerance to hyperoxia. We show that apoptosis is associated with increased survival of aged rats to hyperoxia and with decreased levels of lung injury as measured by the volume of pleural effusion, wet-to-dry lung weight, and myeloperoxidase content in aged rats compared with young rats after hyperoxia. We also examined this relationship in an alternate model of tolerance to hyperoxia. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-treated young rats not only demonstrated tolerance to hyperoxia but also exhibited a significantly lower apoptotic index compared with saline-treated rats after hyperoxia. To further separate the effects of aging and tolerance, we show that aged rats pretreated with LPS did not exhibit a significant level of tolerance against hyperoxia. Furthermore, similar to the hyperoxia-tolerant LPS-pretreated young rats, the nontolerant LPS-pretreated aged rats also exhibited a significantly reduced apoptotic index compared with aged rats exposed to hyperoxia alone. Taken together, our data suggest that hyperoxia-induced apoptosis in vivo can be modulated by both aging and tolerance effects. We conclude that there is no overall relationship between apoptosis and tolerance.