Alveolar epithelium: role in lung fluid balance and acute lung injury

Proc Am Thorac Soc. 2005;2(3):206-13. doi: 10.1513/pats.200501-009AC.


The resolution of alveolar edema is regulated by active sodium and chloride transport across the pulmonary epithelium, including alveolar epithelial type I and II cells as well as distal airway epithelia. Catecholamine-dependent mechanisms can markedly upregulate alveolar fluid clearance even under pathological conditions, an effect that is mediated by both epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) and cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR). Under pathological conditions, impaired alveolar fluid clearance is associated with worse survival in patients with acute lung injury. However, there is some experimental and clinical evidence that cAMP stimulation could accelerate the resolution of pulmonary edema in the presence of acute lung injury. Clinical trials are needed to test this potential therapeutic strategy in patients with acute lung injury.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Catecholamines / physiology
  • Cyclic AMP / physiology
  • Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator / physiology
  • Epithelium / physiopathology
  • Extravascular Lung Water / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Ion Transport
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / physiopathology*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / physiopathology*


  • Catecholamines
  • Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator
  • Cyclic AMP