Preventing loss of mechanosensation by the nuclear membranes of alveolar cells reduces lung injury in mice during mechanical ventilation

Sci Transl Med. 2018 Aug 29;10(456):eaam7598. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aam7598.


The nuclear membrane acts as a mechanosensor that drives cellular responses following changes in the extracellular environment. Mechanically ventilated lungs are exposed to an abnormally high mechanical load that may result in clinically relevant alveolar damage. We report that mechanical ventilation in mice increased the expression of Lamin-A, a major determinant of nuclear membrane stiffness, in alveolar epithelial cells. Lamin-A expression increased and nuclear membrane compliance decreased in human bronchial epithelial cells after a mechanical stretch stimulus and in a murine model of lung injury after positive-pressure ventilation. Reducing Lamin-A maturation by depletion of the protease-encoding gene Zmpste24 preserved alveolar nuclear membrane compliance after mechanical ventilation in mice. Ventilator-induced proapoptotic gene expression changes and lung injury were reduced in mice lacking Zmpste24 compared to wild-type control animals. Similarly, treatment with the human immunodeficiency virus protease inhibitors lopinavir and ritonavir reduced the accumulation of Lamin-A at nuclear membranes and preserved nuclear membrane compliance after mechanical ventilation, mimicking the protective phenotype of Zmpste24-/- animals. These results show that the pathophysiological response to lung mechanical stretch is sensed by the nuclear membranes of lung alveolar cells, and suggest that protease inhibitors might be effective in preventing ventilator-induced lung injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alveolar Epithelial Cells / drug effects
  • Alveolar Epithelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Alveolar Epithelial Cells / ultrastructure
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Cell Line
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • HIV Protease Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Lamins / metabolism
  • Lopinavir / pharmacology
  • Lung / metabolism
  • Lung / pathology
  • Lung / ultrastructure
  • Lung Injury / etiology*
  • Lung Injury / genetics
  • Lung Injury / metabolism*
  • Lung Injury / pathology
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular*
  • Membrane Proteins / deficiency
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Metalloendopeptidases / deficiency
  • Metalloendopeptidases / metabolism
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nuclear Envelope / drug effects
  • Nuclear Envelope / metabolism*
  • Nuclear Envelope / ultrastructure
  • Respiration, Artificial / adverse effects*
  • Ritonavir / pharmacology


  • HIV Protease Inhibitors
  • Lamins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Lopinavir
  • Metalloendopeptidases
  • Zmpste24 protein, mouse
  • Ritonavir