Biochemical and morphological changes in endothelial cells in response to hypoxic interstitial edema

Respir Res. 2006 Jan 13;7(1):7. doi: 10.1186/1465-9921-7-7.


Background: A correlation between interstial pulmonary matrix disorganization and lung cellular response was recently documented in cardiogenic interstitial edema as changes in the signal-cellular transduction platforms (lipid microdomains: caveoale and lipid rafts). These findings led to hypothesize a specific "sensing" function by lung cells resulting from a perturbation in cell-matrix interaction. We reason that the cell-matrix interaction may differ between the cardiogenic and the hypoxic type of lung edema due to the observed difference in the sequential degradation of matrix proteoglycans (PGs) family. In cardiogenic edema a major fragmentation of high molecular weight PGs of the interfibrillar matrix was found, while in hypoxia the fragmentation process mostly involved the PGs of the basement membrane controlling microvascular permeability. Based on these considerations, we aim to describe potential differences in the lung cellular response to the two types of edema.

Methods: We analysed the composition of plasma membrane and of lipid microdomains in lung tissue samples from anesthetized rabbits exposed to mild hypoxia (12 % O2 for 3-5 h) causing interstitial lung edema. Lipid analysis was performed by chromatographic techniques, while protein analysis by electrophoresis and Western blotting. Lipid peroxidation was assessed on total plasma membranes by a colorimetric assay (Bioxytech LPO-586, OxisResearch). Plasma membrane fluidity was also assessed by fluorescence. Lipid microdomains were isolated by discontinuous sucrose gradient. We also performed a morphometric analysis on lung cell shape on TEM images from lung tissue specimen.

Results: After hypoxia, phospholipids content in plasma membranes remained unchanged while the cholesterol/phospholipids ratio increased significantly by about 9% causing a decrease in membrane fluidity. No significant increase in lipid peroxidation was detected. Analysis of lipid microdomains showed a decrease of caveolin-1 and AQP1 (markers of caveolae), and an increase in CD55 (marker of lipid rafts). Morphometry showed a significant decrease in endothelial cell volume, a marked increase in the cell surface/volume ratio and a decrease in caveolar density; epithelial cells did not show morphological changes.

Conclusion: The biochemical, signaling and morphological changes observed in lung endothelial cell exposed to hypoxia are opposite to those previously described in cardiogenic edema, suggesting a differential cellular response to either type of edema.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caveolae / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Endothelial Cells / pathology
  • Endothelial Cells / ultrastructure
  • Extracellular Fluid / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Hypoxia / metabolism*
  • Hypoxia / pathology*
  • Lipid Bilayers / metabolism
  • Lipid Peroxidation / physiology
  • Lysophospholipids / metabolism
  • Membrane Microdomains / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Plasmalogens / metabolism
  • Pulmonary Edema / metabolism*
  • Pulmonary Edema / pathology*
  • Rabbits
  • Respiratory Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Respiratory Mucosa / pathology
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence


  • Fatty Acids
  • Lipid Bilayers
  • Lysophospholipids
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Plasmalogens