Alveolar septal patterning during compensatory lung growth: Part II the effect of parenchymal pressure gradients

J Theor Biol. 2017 May 21:421:168-178. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2017.03.019. Epub 2017 Mar 28.


In most mammals, compensatory lung growth occurs after the removal of one lung (pneumonectomy). Although the mechanism of alveolar growth is unknown, the patterning of complex alveolar geometry over organ-sized length scales is a central question in regenerative lung biology. Because shear forces appear capable of signaling the differentiation of important cells involved in neoalveolarization (fibroblasts and myofibroblasts), interstitial fluid mechanics provide a potential mechanism for the patterning of alveolar growth. The movement of interstitial fluid is created by two basic mechanisms: 1) the non-uniform motion of the boundary walls, and 2) parenchymal pressure gradients external to the interstitial fluid. In a previous study (Haber et al., Journal of Theoretical Biology 400: 118-128, 2016), we investigated the effects of non-uniform stretching of the primary septum (associated with its heterogeneous mechanical properties) during breathing on generating non-uniform Stokes flow in the interstitial space. In the present study, we analyzed the effect of parenchymal pressure gradients on interstitial flow. Dependent upon lung microarchitecture and physiologic conditions, parenchymal pressure gradients had a significant effect on the shear stress distribution in the interstitial space of primary septa. A dimensionless parameter δ described the ratio between the effects of a pressure gradient and the influence of non-uniform primary septal wall motion. Assuming that secondary septa are formed where shear stresses were the largest, it is shown that the geometry of the newly generated secondary septa was governed by the value of δ. For δ smaller than 0.26, the alveolus size was halved while for higher values its original size was unaltered. We conclude that the movement of interstitial fluid, governed by parenchymal pressure gradients and non-uniform primary septa wall motion, provides a plausible mechanism for the patterning of alveolar growth.

Keywords: Breathing; Differentiation; Extracellular matrix; Fibroblasts; Interstitial flow; Line element; Myofibroblasts; Neoalveolarization; Pneumonectomy; Primary septum; Shear stress; Stretch.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena*
  • Body Patterning / physiology*
  • Extracellular Fluid / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Lung / growth & development*
  • Organogenesis / physiology
  • Parenchymal Tissue / physiology*
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / growth & development*
  • Stress, Mechanical