Alteration of cystic airway mesenchyme in congenital pulmonary airway malformation

Sci Rep. 2019 Mar 28;9(1):5296. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-41777-y.


Congenital pulmonary airway malformation (CPAM) is the most common congenital lesion detected in the neonatal lung, which may lead to respiratory distress, infection, and pneumothorax. CPAM is thought to result from abnormal branching morphogenesis during fetal lung development, arising from different locations within the developing respiratory tract. However, the pathogenic mechanisms are unknown, and previous studies have focused on abnormalities in airway epithelial cells. We have analyzed 13 excised lung specimens from infants (age < 1 year) with a confirmed diagnosis of type 2 CPAM, which is supposed to be derived from abnormal growth of intrapulmonary distal airways. By examining the mesenchymal components including smooth muscle cells, laminin, and elastin in airway and cystic walls using immunofluorescence staining, we found that the thickness and area of the smooth muscle layer underlining the airway cysts in these CPAM tissue sections were significantly decreased compared with those in bronchiolar walls of normal controls. Extracellular elastin fibers were also visually reduced or absent in airway cystic walls. In particular, a layer of elastin fibers seen in normal lung between airway epithelia and underlying smooth muscle cells was missing in type 2 CPAM samples. Thus, our data demonstrate for the first time that airway cystic lesions in type 2 CPAM occur not only in airway epithelial cells, but also in adjacent mesenchymal tissues, including airway smooth muscle cells and their extracellular protein products. This provides a new direction to study the molecular and cellular mechanisms of CPAM pathogenesis in human.

MeSH terms

  • Cystic Adenomatoid Malformation of Lung, Congenital / pathology*
  • Elastin / analysis
  • Elastin / metabolism
  • Epithelial Cells / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Laminin / analysis
  • Laminin / metabolism
  • Lung / embryology*
  • Lung / pathology
  • Male
  • Mesoderm / pathology*
  • Muscle, Smooth / cytology
  • Muscle, Smooth / embryology
  • Muscle, Smooth / pathology
  • Myocytes, Smooth Muscle / pathology
  • Respiratory Mucosa / cytology
  • Respiratory Mucosa / embryology
  • Respiratory Mucosa / pathology


  • Laminin
  • Elastin