Thioredoxin-deficient mice, a novel phenotype sensitive to ambient air and hypersensitive to hyperoxia-induced lung injury

Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2015 Mar 1;308(5):L429-42. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00285.2014. Epub 2014 Dec 24.


Pulmonary oxygen toxicity is a major clinical problem for patients undergoing supplemental oxygen therapy. Thioredoxin (Trx) is an endogenous antioxidant protein that regenerates oxidatively inactivated proteins. We examined how Trx contributes to oxygen tolerance by creating transgenic mice with decreased levels of functional thioredoxin (dnTrx-Tg) using a dominant-negative approach. These mice showed decreased Trx activity in the lung although the expression of mutant protein is three times higher than the wild-type mice. Additionally, we found that these mice showed increased oxidation of endogenous Trx in room air. When exposed to hyperoxia (>90% O2) for 4 days, they failed to recover and showed significant mortality. Even in normal oxygen levels, these mice displayed a significant decrease in aconitase and NADH dehydrogenase activities, decreased mitochondrial energy metabolism, increased p53 and Gadd45α expression, and increased synthesis of proinflammatory cytokines. These effects were further increased by hyperoxia. We also generated mice overexpressing Trx (Trx-Tg) and found they maintained lung redox balance during exposure to high oxygen and thus were resistant to hyperoxia-induced lung injury. These mice had increased levels of reduced Trx in the lung in normoxia as well as hyperoxia. Furthermore, the levels of aconitase and NADH dehydrogenase activities were maintained in these mice concomitant with maintenance of mitochondrial energy metabolism. The genotoxic stress markers such as p53 or Gadd45α remained in significantly lower levels in hyperoxia compared with dnTrx-Tg or wild-type mice. These studies establish that mice deficient in functional Trx exhibit a phenotype of sensitivity to ambient air and hypersensitivity to hyperoxia.

Keywords: hyperoxia; lung injury; redox; thioredoxin-deficient mice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aconitate Hydratase / metabolism
  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Air*
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Respiration
  • Chickens
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hyperoxia / complications*
  • Hyperoxia / pathology
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism
  • Lung / enzymology
  • Lung / pathology
  • Lung Injury / etiology*
  • Lung Injury / metabolism
  • Lung Injury / pathology*
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • NADH Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxygen
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Phenotype
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / metabolism
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / pathology
  • Survival Analysis
  • Thioredoxins / metabolism*
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism


  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Cytokines
  • Gadd45a protein, mouse
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • Thioredoxins
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • NADH Dehydrogenase
  • Aconitate Hydratase
  • Oxygen