Loss of basal cells precedes bronchiolitis obliterans-like pathological changes in a murine model of chlorine gas inhalation.
Bronchiolitis obliterans (BO) is a major cause of chronic airway dysfunction after toxic chemical inhalation. The pathophysiology of BO is not well understood, but epithelial cell injury has been closely associated with the development of fibrotic lesions in human studies and in animal models of both toxin-induced and transplant-induced BO. However, whereas almost all cases and models of BO include epithelial injury, not all instances of epithelial injury result in BO, suggesting that epithelial damage per se is not the critical event leading to the development of BO. Here, we describe a model of chlorine-induced BO in which mice develop tracheal and large airway obliterative lesions within 10 days of exposure to high (350 parts per million [ppm]), but not low (200 ppm), concentrations of chlorine gas. Importantly, these lesions arise only under conditions and in areas in which basal cells, the resident progenitor cells for large airway epithelium, are eliminated by chlorine exposure. In areas of basal cell loss, epithelial regeneration does not occur, resulting in persistent regions of epithelial denudation. Obliterative airway lesions arise specifically from regions of epithelial denudation in a process that includes inflammatory cell infiltration by Day 2 after exposure, fibroblast infiltration and collagen deposition by Day 5, and the ingrowth of blood vessels by Day 7, ultimately leading to lethal airway obstruction by Days 9-12. We conclude that the loss of epithelial progenitor cells constitutes a critical factor leading to the development of obliterative airway lesions after chemical inhalation.
O'Koren, EG; Hogan, BLM; Gunn, MD
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