Accumulation of p21Cip1/WAF1 during Hyperoxic Lung Injury in Mice

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Hyperoxic lung injury results in decreased cell proliferation, DNA damage, and cell death. Because the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21Cip1/WAF1 (p21) inhibits cell proliferation in G1/S, enhances DNA repair, and regulates apoptosis in some cells, we hypothesized that the expression of p21 would increase in lungs of C57Bl/6J male mice exposed to and recovered from > 95% oxygen. A low level of p21 messenger RNA (mRNA) expression was detected by Northern blot analysis of room air-exposed lungs. Exposure to hyperoxia resulted in a modest increase in p21 mRNA expression by 24 h, followed by a marked induction by 48 to 72 h. In situ hybridization revealed that p21 mRNA abundance increased in bronchiolar epithelium and in resident alveolar cells, but not in smooth-muscle cells or large airway epithelium. Hyperoxia increased the expression of p21 protein by 24 h and continued to increase at 48 and 72 h. Immunohistochemical staining showed that p21 protein accumulated in the bronchiolar epithelium and in alveolar regions that had increased p21 mRNA expression. In contrast, the expression of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27Kip1 was not altered by hyperoxia. To determine whether p21 expression was altered during the repair process, mice were exposed to hyperoxia for 64 h and allowed to recover for up to 4 d in room air. The abundance of p21 mRNA and protein decreased by 1 to 2 d of recovery and returned to room air-exposed levels by 3 to 4 d of recovery. These findings support the concept that bronchiolar epithelial and alveolar cells damaged by hyperoxia express molecules such as p21, which may participate in regulating cell proliferation, DNA repair, and cell death.

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