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Alveolar type 2 (AT-2) cell apoptosis is an important mechanism during lung inflammation, lung injury, and regeneration. Blunt chest trauma has been shown to activate inflammatory cells such as alveolar macrophages (AMs) or neutrophils (polymorphonuclear granulocytes [PMNs]), resulting in an inflammatory response. The present study was performed to determine the capacity of different components/cells of the alveolar compartment (AMs, PMNs, or bronchoalveolar lavage [BAL] fluids) to induce apoptosis in AT-2 cells following blunt chest trauma. To study this, male Sprague-Dawley rats were subjected to either sham procedure or blunt chest trauma induced by a single blast wave. Various time points after injury (6 h to 7 d), the lungs were analyzed by immunohistochemistry, for AT-2 cells, or with antibodies directed against caspase 3, caspase 8, Fas, Fas ligand (FasL), BAX, and BCL-2. Bronchoalveolar lavage concentrations of TNF-α, IL-1β, and soluble FasL were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Furthermore, cultures of AT-2 cells isolated from healthy rats were incubated with supernatants of AMs, PMNs, or BAL fluids obtained from either trauma or sham-operated animals in the presence or absence of oxidative stress. Annexin V staining or TUNEL (terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase) assay was used to detect apoptotic AT-2 cells. Histological evaluation revealed that the total number of AT-2 cells was significantly reduced at 48 h following trauma. Fas, FasL, active caspase 8, and active caspase 3 were markedly up-regulated in AT-2 cells after chest trauma. BAX and BCL-2 did not show any significant changes between sham and trauma. IL-1β, but not TNF-α, levels were markedly increased at 24 h after the injury, and soluble FasL concentrations were significantly enhanced at 6, 12, 24, and 48 h after the insult. Apoptosis of AT-2 cells incubated with supernatants from cultured AMs, isolated at 48 h following chest trauma was markedly increased when compared with shams. In contrast, no apoptosis was induced in AT-2 cells incubated with supernatants of activated PMNs or BAL fluids of traumatized animals. In summary, blunt chest trauma induced apoptosis in AT-2 cells, possibly involving the extrinsic death receptor pathway. Furthermore, mediators released by AMs appeared to be involved in the induction of AT-2 cell apoptosis.

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