Pediatric Surgery International

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 197–203 | Cite as

Decreased apelin and apelin-receptor expression in the pulmonary vasculature of nitrofen-induced congenital diaphragmatic hernia

  • Alejandro D. Hofmann
  • Florian Friedmacher
  • Hiromizu Takahashi
  • Manuela Hunziker
  • Jan-Hendrik Gosemann
  • Prem Puri
Original Article



The high morbidity and mortality in congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) are attributed to severe pulmonary hypoplasia and persistent pulmonary hypertension (PH). PH is characterized by structural changes in pulmonary arteries, resulting in adventitial and medial thickness. These effects are triggered by abnormal apoptosis and proliferation of pulmonary vascular endothelial and smooth muscle cells (SMCs). Apelin (APLN), a target gene of bone morphogenic protein receptor 2 (BMPR2), is known to play an important and manifold role in regulating pulmonary homeostasis promoting endothelial cell (EC) survival, proliferation and migration. In addition to these autocrine effects of apelin, it displays a paracrine function attenuating the response of pulmonary SMCs to growth factors and promoting apoptosis. Apelin exerts its effect via its G-protein-coupled receptor (APLNR) and is solely expressed by pulmonary vascular EC, whereas APLNR is co-localized in pulmonary ECs and SMCs. Dysfunction of BMPR2 and downstream signalling have been shown to disturb the crucial balance of proliferation of SMCs contributing to the pathogenesis of human and experimentally induced PH. We designed this study to investigate the hypothesis that apelin and APLNR signalling are disrupted in the pulmonary vasculature of rats in nitrofen-induced CDH.


Pregnant rats were exposed to nitrofen or vehicle on D9 of gestation. Foetuses were sacrificed on D21 and divided into nitrofen and control group (n = 32). Pulmonary RNA was extracted and mRNA levels of APLN and APLNR were determined by quantitative real-time PCR. Protein expression of apelin and APLNR was investigated by western blotting. Confocal immunofluorescence double staining for apelin, APLNR and SMCs were performed.


Relative mRNA level of APLN and APLNR were significantly decreased in the CDH group compared to control lungs. Western blotting and confocal microscopy confirmed the qRT-PCR results showing decreased pulmonary protein expression of apelin and APLNR in lungs of nitrofen-exposed foetuses compared to controls.


This study provides striking evidence of markedly decreased gene and protein expression of apelin and its receptor APLNR in the pulmonary vasculature of nitrofen-induced CDH. The disruption of the apelin–APLNR signalling axis in the pulmonary vasculature may lead to extensive vascular remodelling and contribute to PPH in the nitrofen-induced CDH model.


Congenital diaphragmatic hernia Pulmonary hypertension Nitrofen Apelin Apelin receptor 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alejandro D. Hofmann
    • 1
  • Florian Friedmacher
    • 1
  • Hiromizu Takahashi
    • 1
  • Manuela Hunziker
    • 1
  • Jan-Hendrik Gosemann
    • 1
    • 3
  • Prem Puri
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.National Children’s Research CentreOur Lady’s Children’s Hospital, CrumlinDublin 12Ireland
  2. 2.School of Medicine and Medical Science and Conway Institute of Biomedical ResearchUniversity College DublinDublinIreland
  3. 3.Department of Pediatric SurgeryHannover Medical SchoolHannoverGermany

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