Purpose: This report summarizes our experiences on the protective effect of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, especially captopril and an angiotensin II type 1 receptor blocker on radiation-induced pulmonary injury.
Method: In the first series of experiments, adult male Sprague Dawley rats were given a single dose of either 20 or 30 Gy of gamma rays to a 35 cm2 right hemithorax port, whilst shielding the left, contralateral, lung. Perfusion scans and autopsies were performed at intervals up to 12 months post-radiation. Three different ACE inhibitors, penicillamine and pentoxifylline were given as radiation protectors and their activity compared. A model of irradiation for total bone marrow transplant (BMT) was used for the second group of experiments. Male WAC/Rij/MCW rats received total-body irradiation and a regimen of cyclophosphamide (CTX) in preparation for bone marrow transplant. The modifiers were two ACE inhibitors, captopril and enalapril, and L-158,809, an angiotensin II (A II) type 1 receptor blocker. All drugs were administered in the rats' drinking water and all were well-tolerated.
Results: In the irradiated rats, pulmonary damage progressed from the presence of blebs and detachment from basement membranes of endothelial cells a few days after injury, to severe arteritis and interstitial collagen deposition at 3 months, and then on to severe pneumonitis and extensive pulmonary fibrosis at 6 months. Marked increase of hydroxyproline was also found in the lungs at 6 months. These morphological changes were associated with significant decrease of ACE and plasminogen activator activity (PLA) and a marked increase of prostaglandins (PG12) and thromboxane (Txa2), substances considered as indicators of endothelial pulmonary damage. ACE inhibitors captopril, CL 24817, enalapril and CGS 13945 prevented the markers of endothelial dysfunction. Captopril and CL 24817, which contain a sulphydryl (-SH) radical in their moiety and the AII type 1 receptor blocker, L-158,809, were the most efficient in protecting the lung parenchyma from the inflammatory response and subsequent fibrosis. Penicillamine, an SH-containing compound with weak ACE inhibitory activity was also a strong antifibrotic agent but showed only modest anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, in the irradiated rats, captopril also reduced the incidence of squamous cell skin carcinomas and subcutaneous sarcomas consequent to the highest doses of radiation.
Conclusion: ACE inhibitors and one AII type 1 receptor blocker were effective in protecting lungs from radiation-induced pneumonitis and the development of lung fibrosis in two models of rat radiation injury. In the first series of experiments (unilateral irradiation), those ACE inhibitors containing a sulphydryl radical were more effective than those without it. This observation led to the question of whether this protective effect is related to inhibition of AII synthesis or rather to some of the collateral pharmacologic properties of these drugs, such as anti-oxidation or protease inhibition. The AII receptor blocker, however, was shown to be equally effective, if not better, in its antifibrotic capacity than any ACE inhibitor with or without an SH radical, reaffirming the role of AII in modulation of collagen synthesis.