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VEGF regulates the proliferation of acid-exposed alveolar lining epithelial cells
  1. A Ohwada1,
  2. Y Yoshioka1,
  3. K Iwabuchi2,
  4. I Nagaoka2,
  5. T Dambara1,
  6. Y Fukuchi1
  1. 1Department of Respiratory Medicine, Juntendo University School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan
  2. 2Department of Biochemistry, Juntendo University School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr A Ohwada, Department of Respiratory Medicine, Juntendo University, School of Medicine, 2-1-1 Hongo, Bunkyo-Ku, Tokyo 113-8421, Japan;


Background: Acid induced pneumonitis resulting in acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is characterised by increased alveolar permeability and accumulation of neutrophils. It is hypothesised that vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is involved in the development of lung oedema. Furthermore, lower levels of VEGF are detected in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid from patients with ARDS than from non-ARDS patients. We hypothesised that VEGF acts cytoprotectively and have investigated this possibility in vitro with A549 cells.

Methods: A549 cells were incubated in 24 well culture dishes 24 hours before exposure to acid, then incubated with serum free medium containing various concentrations of HCl for 30 minutes at 37°C in 5% CO2. The acidified medium was changed to normal complete medium; at specified incubation periods the supernatants were collected and the VEGF concentration measured and the number of adherent cells counted.

Results: Proliferation of A549 cells and VEGF production were suppressed for at least 48 hours in HCl at a concentration of 50 mM. Restoration of cellular proliferation occurred following exogenous administration of VEGF (concentration of 1–250 ng/ml) and was inhibited by co-incubation with neutralising anti-VEGF antibody, indicating an interaction between VEGF molecules and A549 cells. Control cells were not influenced by administration of exogenous VEGF or anti-VEGF antibody. Treatment with neutralising anti-VEGF receptor (VEGFR) antibodies against VEGFR-1 and VEGFR-2 suppressed proliferation of acid exposed A549 cells but had no effect on control cells.

Conclusions: Exogenous VEGF interacts with VEGFR-1 and VEGFR-2 on the surface and regulates the proliferation of injured alveolar lining epithelial cells in an autocrine or paracrine fashion.

  • VEGF
  • acid induced lung injury
  • cytoprotection

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