Background: Caffeine is widely used to manage apnea of prematurity, and reduces the incidence of bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). Deregulated transforming growth factor (TGF)-β signaling underlies arrested postnatal lung maturation in BPD. It is unclear whether caffeine impacts TGF-β signaling or postnatal lung development in affected lungs.
Methods: The impact of caffeine on TGF-β signaling in primary mouse lung fibroblasts and alveolar epithelial type II cells was assessed in vitro. The effects of caffeine administration (25 mg/kg/d for the first 14 d of postnatal life) on aberrant lung development and TGF-β signaling in vivo was assessed in a hyperoxia (85% O2)-based model of BPD in C57BL/6 mice.
Results: Caffeine downregulated expression of type I and type III TGF-β receptors, and Smad2; and potentiated TGF-β signaling in vitro. In vivo, caffeine administration normalized body mass under hyperoxic conditions, and normalized Smad2 phosphorylation detected in lung homogenates; however, caffeine administration neither improved nor worsened lung structure in hyperoxia-exposed mice, in which postnatal lung maturation was blunted.
Conclusion: Caffeine modulated TGF-β signaling in vitro and in vivo. Caffeine administration was well-tolerated by newborn mice, but did not influence the course of blunted postnatal lung maturation in a hyperoxia-based experimental mouse model of BPD.