Magnetic resonance imaging of disease progression and resolution in a transgenic mouse model of pulmonary fibrosis

Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2017 Apr 1;312(4):L488-L499. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00458.2016. Epub 2017 Jan 27.


Pulmonary fibrosis contributes to morbidity and mortality in a range of diseases, and there are no approved therapies for reversing its progression. To understand the mechanisms underlying pulmonary fibrosis and assess potential therapies, mouse models are central to basic and translational research. Unfortunately, metrics commonly used to assess murine pulmonary fibrosis require animals to be grouped and euthanized, increasing experimental difficulty and cost. We examined the ability of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to noninvasively assess lung fibrosis progression and resolution in a doxycycline (Dox) regulatable, transgenic mouse model that overexpresses transforming growth factor-α (TGF-α) under control of a lung-epithelial-specific promoter. During 7 wk of Dox treatment, fibrotic lesions were readily observed as high-signal tissue. Mean weighted signal and percent signal volume were found to be the most robust MRI-derived measures of fibrosis, and these metrics correlated significantly with pleural thickness, histology scores, and hydroxyproline content (R = 0.75-0.89). When applied longitudinally, percent high signal volume increased by 1.5% wk-1 (P < 0.001) and mean weighted signal increased at a rate of 0.0065 wk-1 (P = 0.0062). Following Dox treatment, lesions partially resolved, with percent high signal volume decreasing by -3.2% wk-1 (P = 0.0034) and weighted mean signal decreasing at -0.015 wk-1 (P = 0.0028). Additionally, longitudinal MRI revealed dynamic remodeling in a subset of lesions, a previously unobserved behavior in this model. These results demonstrate MRI can noninvasively assess experimental lung fibrosis progression and resolution and provide unique insights into its pathobiology.

Keywords: IPF; TGF-α; interstitial lung disease; magnetic resonance imaging; pulmonary fibrosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Disease Progression*
  • Hydroxyproline / metabolism
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / pathology*
  • Transforming Growth Factor alpha / pharmacology


  • Transforming Growth Factor alpha
  • Hydroxyproline