Hyperoxia contributes to the development of bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) in premature infants. New BPD is characterized as having alveolar simplification. We reported previously that aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) deficiency increased susceptibility to hyperoxic lung injury in adult mice, and this was associated with decreased expression of cytochrome P450 1A enzymes and increased lung inflammation. Whether AhR protects newborn mice against hyperoxia-induced alveolar simplification is unknown. Thus, we tested the hypothesis that decreased activation of the pulmonary AhR augments hyperoxia-induced alveolar simplification and lung inflammation in newborn mice. Experimental groups included one-day old wild type (WT) and AhR dysfunctional (AhRd) mice exposed to 21% O₂ (air) or 85% O₂ (hyperoxia) for 14 days. Exposure of newborn WT mice to hyperoxia resulted in increased protein, enzyme and mRNA expression of the AhR-regulated lung cytochrome P450 1A1, NAD(P)H quinone oxidoreductase-1, and microsomal glutathione S-transferase 1 enzymes, suggesting that hyperoxia increases activation of the pulmonary AhR. On the other hand, in the AhRd mice, hyperoxia induced the AhR-regulated enzymes to a lesser extent probably due to the dysfunctional AhR in these mice. Alveolar simplification and lung inflammation was increased in mice exposed to hyperoxia compared with those exposed to air, and AhRd mice were more susceptible to hyperoxia-induced alveolar simplification and lung inflammation compared with WT mice. These findings suggest that decreased activation of the pulmonary AhR in newborn AhRd mice augments hyperoxia-induced alveolar simplification and lung inflammation in these mice.
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