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Dexmedetomidine reduces ventilator-induced lung injury (VILI) by inhibiting Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4)/nuclear factor (NF)-κB signaling pathway

Hongli Chen, Xiaotong Sun, Xiaomei Yang, Yonghao Hou, Xiaoqian Yu, Yang Wang, Jianbo Wu, Dejie Liu, Huanliang Wang, Jingui Yu, Wenbo Yi


Mechanical ventilation (MV) may lead to ventilator-induced lung injury (VILI). Previous research has shown that dexmedetomidine attenuates pulmonary inflammation caused by MV, but the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Our study aims to test whether dexmedetomidine has a protective effect against VILI and to explore the possible molecular mechanisms using the rat model. Thirty adult male Wistar rats weighing 200-250 g were randomly assigned to 5 groups (n = 6): control, low tidal volume MV (LMV), high tidal volume (HVT) MV (HMV), HVT MV + dexmedetomidine (DEX), HVT MV + dexmedetomidine + yohimbine (DEX+Y). Rats were euthanized after being ventilated for 4 hours. Pathological changes, lung wet/dry (W/D) weight ratio, lung myeloperoxidase (MPO) activity, levels of inflammatory cytokines (i.e., interleukin [IL]-1β, tumor necrosis factor alpha [TNF-α], and IL-6) in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) and lung tissues, expression of Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) and nuclear factor (NF)-κB, and activation of NF-κB in lung tissues were measured. Compared with HMV, DEX group showed fewer pathological changes, lower W/D ratios and decreased MPO activity of the lung tissues and lower concentrations of the inflammatory cytokines in the BALF and lung tissues. Dexmedetomidine significantly inhibited the expression of TLR4 and NF-κB and activation of NF-κB. Yohimbine partly alleviated the effects of dexmedetomidine. Dexmedetomidine reduced the inflammatory response to HVT-MV and had a protective effect against VILI, with the inhibition of the TLR4/NF-κB signaling pathway, at least partly via α2-adrenoceptors.


Dexmedetomidine; ventilator-induced lung injury; VILI; Toll-like receptor 4; TLR4; Nuclear factor κB; NF-κB; inflammatory cytokine; α2-adrenoceptor

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