EphA2 receptor mediates increased vascular permeability in lung injury due to viral infection and hypoxia

Melissa A. Cercone, William Schroeder, Stacey Schomberg, Todd C. Carpenter


Ephrin family receptor tyrosine kinases are mediators of angiogenesis that may also regulate endothelial barrier function in the lung. Previous work has demonstrated that stimulation of EphA ephrin receptors causes increased vascular leak in the intact lung and increased permeability in cultured endothelial cells. Whether EphA receptors are involved in the permeability changes associated with lung injury is unknown. We studied this question in young rats exposed to viral respiratory infection combined with exposure to moderate hypoxia, a previously described lung injury model. We found that the EphA2 receptor is expressed in normal lung and that EphA2 expression is markedly upregulated in the lungs of hypoxic infected (HV) rats compared with normal control animals. Immunohistochemistry showed increased EphA2 expression principally in areas of edematous alveolar septae. In HV rats, EphA2 antagonism with either the soluble decoy receptor EphA2/Fc or with monoclonal anti-EphA2 antibody reduced albumin extravasation and histological evidence of edema formation (P < 0.01). Vascular leak in HV rats is mediated in large part by increased lung endothelin (ET) levels. In HV rats, ET receptor antagonism with bosentan resulted in reduced EphA2 mRNA and protein expression (P < 0.01). Experiments with cultured rat lung microvascular endothelial cells demonstrated that ET increases endothelial EphA2 expression. These results suggest that EphA2 expression is increased in lung injury, contributes to vascular leak in the injured lung, and is regulated in endothelial cells by ET. EphA2 may be a previously unrecognized contributor to the pathophysiology of lung injury.

  • pulmonary edema
  • endothelin
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