J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2014 Nov; 148(5): 2335–2344.
Thomais Markou, PhDa, and David J. Chambers, PhDb



Lung deflation and inflation during cardiac surgery with cardiopulmonary bypass contributes to pulmonary dysfunction postoperatively. Theophylline treatment for lung diseases has traditionally been thought to act by phosphodiesterase inhibition; however, increasing evidence has suggested other plausible mechanisms. We investigated the effects of deflation and reinflation on signaling pathways (p38-mitogen-activated protein kinase [MAPK], extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1 and 2 [ERK1/2], and Akt) and whether theophylline influences the deflation-induced lung injury and associated signaling.


Isolated rat lungs were perfused (15 mL/min) with deoxygenated rat blood in bicarbonate buffer and ventilated. After 20 minutes' equilibration, the lungs were deflated (60 minutes, aerobic perfusion 1.5 mL/min), followed by reinflation (60 minutes, anaerobic reperfusion 15 mL/min). Compliance, vascular resistance, and kinase phosphorylation were assessed during deflation and reinflation. The effects of SB203580 (50 μM), a p38-MAPK inhibitor, and theophylline (0.083 mM [therapeutic] or 3 mM [supratherapeutic]) on physiology and signaling were studied.


Deflation reduced compliance by 44% compared with continuously ventilated lungs. p38-MAPK and Akt phosphorylation increased (three to fivefold) during deflation and reinflation, and ERK1/2 phosphorylation increased (approximately twofold) during reinflation. SB203580 had no effect on lung physiology or ERK1/2 and Akt activation. Both theophylline doses increased cyclic adenosine monophosphate, but only 3 mM theophylline improved compliance. p38-MAPK phosphorylation was not affected by theophylline; 0.083 mM theophylline inhibited reinflation-induced ERK1/2 phosphorylation (72% ± 3%); and 3 mM theophylline inhibited Akt phosphorylation during deflation (75% ± 5%) and reinflation (87% ± 4%).


Lung deflation and reinflation stimulates differential p38-MAPK, ERK1/2, and Akt activation, suggesting a role in lung injury during cardiopulmonary bypass. However, p38-MAPK was not involved in the compromised compliance. A supratherapeutic theophylline dose protected lungs against deflation-induced injury and was associated with inhibition of phosphoinositide 3-kinase/Akt rather than phosphodiesterase.

Abbreviations and Acronyms: BB, bicarbonate buffer; cAMP, cyclic adenosine monophosphate; CPB, cardiopulmonary bypass; ERK1/2, extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1 and 2; MAPK, mitogen-activated protein kinase; PDE, phosphodiesterase; PI3K, phosphoinositide 3-kinase; SBB, sanguineous BB; TBST, Tris-buffered saline with Tween 20

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