Retinoic acid rescues deficient airway innervation and peristalsis of hypoplastic rat lung explants

Federica Pederiva, Leopoldo Martinez, Juan A. Tovar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Bronchial peristalsis modulates lung growth and is deficient in hypoplastic nitrofen-exposed rat lung explants. Retinoic acid (RA) rescues lung hypoplasia. This study examines whether decreased bronchial innervation contributes to this developmental deficiency and if RA is able to recover bronchial innervation and motility. Material and Methods: After IRB approval, pregnant rats received either 100 mg nitrofen or vehicle on gestational day 9.5 (E9.5). Embryonic lung primordia harvested on E13 were cultured for 72 h and RA was added daily to the medium when appropriate. Lung growth was assessed by counting the number of terminal buds and measuring explant surface, total DNA and protein in control, control + RA, nitrofen and nitrofen + RA groups. Peristaltic contractions were recorded for 10 min under an inverted microscope. Lung explants stained for anti-protein gene product 9.5 (PGP 9.5) and smooth muscle α-actin were examined under a confocal microscope for depicting the specific relationship between neural and smooth muscle cells. PGP 9.5 and smooth muscle α-actin levels were quantified by Western blot analysis for assessing the neural and muscle cell expressions. Comparisons between groups were made with non-parametric tests. Results: The number of terminal buds, the explants' surface and the DNA and protein contents were significantly decreased in nitrofen-exposed lungs in comparison with controls. In contrast, these measurements were normal in explants exposed to both nitrofen and RA. Bronchial peristalsis (contractions/min) was significantly decreased in nitrofen-exposed lungs in comparison with controls; in contrast, in nitrofen + RA lungs it was similar to controls. In all study groups, the airways were surrounded by smooth muscle and ensheathed in a plexus of nerve fibers containing ganglia. PGP 9.5 protein levels were decreased in nitrofen-exposed lungs, but they normalized when RA was added. No differences were found in α-actin protein levels. Explants exposed only to RA were similar to control. Conclusions: Lung growth, bronchial innervation and peristalsis are decreased in nitrofen-exposed lung explants and are rescued by RA. If deficient airway innervation contributing to dysmotility and pulmonary hypoplasia can be pharmacologically rescued, new relatively simple prenatal interventions could be envisioned.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-139
Number of pages8
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012


  • Diaphragmatic hernia
  • Intrinsic innervation
  • Lung hypoplasia
  • Nitrofen
  • Peristalsis
  • Retinoic acid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Retinoic acid rescues deficient airway innervation and peristalsis of hypoplastic rat lung explants'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this