BackgroundAlveolar capillary endothelial cell (EC) injury has a pivotal role in driving acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) progression and maintaining endothelial homeostasis. A previous ex vivo study revealed that overexpression of homeobox B4 (HOXB4) in bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (BMSCs) enhanced protection against lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced EC injury by activating the Wnt/β-catenin pathway. This in vivo study was performed to verify whether BMSCs overexpressing HOXB4 exert similar protective effects on LPS-induced acute lung injury (ALI) in an animal model. MethodsThe ALI rat model was established by intraperitoneal injection of LPS. Wildtype BMSCs or BMSCs overexpressing HOXB4 were then injected via the tail vein. The lung characteristics of rats were visualized by computed tomography. Lung histopathological characteristics and collagen deposition were assessed by hematoxylin-eosin and Masson's staining, respectively, which were combined with the lung wet/dry ratio and proinflammatory factor levels in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid to further evaluate therapeutic effects. Expression of β-catenin and VE-cadherin was assessed by western blotting and immunofluorescence. ResultsCompared with wildtype BMSCs, overexpression of HOXB4 optimized the therapeutic effects of BMSCs, which manifested as improvements in lung exudation and histopathological features, reduced lung collagen deposition, amelioration of lung permeability, attenuation of lung inflammation, and enhanced expression of β-catenin and VE-cadherin proteins. ConclusionsHOXB4-overexpressing BMSCs optimized the protective effect against LPS-induced ALI by partially activating Wnt/β-catenin signaling.

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