Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) administered to tracheostomized rabbits and ferrets for 4 days or 2 wk suppresses bronchial reactivity in vivo and suppresses airway reactivity in lobes and tracheal segments isolated from these animals. In vitro studies of canine tracheal smooth muscle tissues indicate that mechanical loading suppresses the activation of the growth regulatory kinase, Akt, and that Akt is a negative regulator of smooth muscle differentiation. The transduction of mechanical signals in the tracheal tissues in vitro is mediated by integrin-associated adhesion complexes. To determine whether airway responsiveness and Akt activation are modulated by mechanical loads applied for short time periods to the airways of living animals in vivo, mice were mechanically ventilated for 2 h with high (5 cmH2O) or low (0-1 cmH2O) positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) and then ventilated at low PEEP for 30 min. Ventilation of mice with PEEP in vivo for 2 h depressed airway responsiveness to methacholine measured in vivo subsequent to the PEEP treatment. Airway narrowing in vitro in intraparenchymal airways in isolated lung slices and contractile responses of isolated tracheal segments in vitro were suppressed for at least 6 h subsequent to the in vivo exposure to PEEP. Tracheal segments isolated from high PEEP-treated mice exhibited significantly lower levels of Akt activation than tracheae from low PEEP-treated mice. The results indicate that mechanical loads imposed in vivo result in physiological and biochemical changes in the airway tissues after a relatively short 2-h period of in vivo loading.
Keywords: airway smooth muscle; mechanotransduction; positive end expiratory pressure.