Pulmonary vascular development is essential for proper lung development, and its disturbance can lead to neonatal morbidity and mortality, as exemplified in congenital diaphragmatic hernia. Hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) appear to be key molecules in physiologic angiogenesis and in certain forms of lung pathology, such as bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Little is known about the qualitative and quantitative expression of HIFs in normal human fetal lung development. Therefore, we investigated the expression of HIF-1α, HIF-2α, and HIF-3α, along with their upstream regulators and downstream targets, von Hippel-Lindau protein, vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF-A), and its receptor, VEGFR-2, in 20 normal human fetal lungs (13.5 weeks in gestation until term) and 5 adult lungs. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction demonstrated a positive correlation between HIF-2α and VEGF-A expression and gestational age. Although there appeared to be a decreasing trend in HIF-3α expression during pregnancy, it did not reach statistical significance. Immunohistochemistry for HIF-1α and HIF-2α revealed that HIF-1α is expressed in the epithelium, while HIF-2α is expressed in both interstitium and epithelium. Our data indicate that HIFs, most notably HIF-2α, appear to exert an important role in angiogenesis during human fetal lung development, especially in the last phases of pregnancy, preparing the fetus for extrauterine life. As such, our results form the baseline data for the evaluation and interpretation of abnormal pulmonary vascular development.

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Keywords Hypoxia-inducible factor, Lung development, Vascular endothelial growth factor
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.2350/07-04-0257.1, hdl.handle.net/1765/64649
Journal Pediatric and Developmental Pathology
Rajatapiti, P, van der Horst, I.W.J.M, de Rooij, J.D, Tran, M.G.B, Maxwell, P.H, Tibboel, D, … de Kruger, R.R. (2008). Expression of hypoxia-inducible factors in normal human lung development. Pediatric and Developmental Pathology, 11(3), 193–199. doi:10.2350/07-04-0257.1