Background: Bronchial hyperreactivity is influenced by properties of the conducting airways and the surrounding pulmonary parenchyma, which is tethered to the conducting airways. Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is associated with an increase in airway hyperreactivity in rats and a decrease in the volume density of alveoli and alveolar ducts. To better define the effects of VAD on the mechanical properties of the pulmonary parenchyma, we have studied the elastic modulus, elastic fibers and elastin gene-expression in rats with VAD, which were supplemented with retinoic acid (RA) or remained unsupplemented.
Methods: Parenchymal mechanics were assessed before and after the administration of carbamylcholine (CCh) by determining the bulk and shear moduli of lungs that that had been removed from rats which were vitamin A deficient or received a control diet. Elastin mRNA and insoluble elastin were quantified and elastic fibers were enumerated using morphometric methods. Additional morphometric studies were performed to assess airway contraction and alveolar distortion.
Results: VAD produced an approximately 2-fold augmentation in the CCh-mediated increase of the bulk modulus and a significant dampening of the increase in shear modulus after CCh, compared to vitamin A sufficient (VAS) rats. RA-supplementation for up to 21 days did not reverse the effects of VAD on the elastic modulus. VAD was also associated with a decrease in the concentration of parenchymal elastic fibers, which was restored and was accompanied by an increase in tropoelastin mRNA after 12 days of RA-treatment. Lung elastin, which was resistant to 0.1 N NaOH at 98 degrees, decreased in VAD and was not restored after 21 days of RA-treatment.
Conclusion: Alterations in parenchymal mechanics and structure contribute to bronchial hyperreactivity in VAD but they are not reversed by RA-treatment, in contrast to the VAD-related alterations in the airways.