Spatial and temporal changes in extracellular elastin and laminin distribution during lung alveolar development

Sci Rep. 2018 May 29;8(1):8334. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-26673-1.


Lung alveolarization requires precise coordination of cell growth with extracellular matrix (ECM) synthesis and deposition. The role of extracellular matrices in alveogenesis is not fully understood, because prior knowledge is largely extrapolated from two-dimensional structural analysis. Herein, we studied temporospatial changes of two important ECM proteins, laminin and elastin that are tightly associated with alveolar capillary growth and lung elastic recoil respectively, during both mouse and human lung alveolarization. By combining protein immunofluorescence staining with two- and three-dimensional imaging, we found that the laminin network was simplified along with the thinning of septal walls during alveogenesis, and more tightly associated with alveolar endothelial cells in matured lung. In contrast, elastin fibers were initially localized to the saccular openings of nascent alveoli, forming a ring-like structure. Then, throughout alveolar growth, the number of such alveolar mouth ring-like structures increased, while the relative ring size decreased. These rings were interconnected via additional elastin fibers. The apparent patches and dots of elastin at the tips of alveolar septae found in two-dimensional images were cross sections of elastin ring fibers in the three-dimension. Thus, the previous concept that deposition of elastin at alveolar tips drives septal inward growth may potentially be conceptually challenged by our data.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Elastin / metabolism*
  • Elastin / physiology
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix / physiology
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Laminin / metabolism*
  • Laminin / physiology
  • Lung / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Organogenesis
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / metabolism*
  • Spatio-Temporal Analysis
  • Young Adult


  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Laminin
  • Elastin