Despite the high efficiency of bleomycin (BLM) as a chemotherapeutic agent against various carcinomas, the potentially lethal and chronic fibrotic response of the lung is a major dose-limiting side effect. Here, we explore the possibility of a direct inhibition of lung tissue injury by in vivo expression of the actinomycetes BLM resistance protein Sh ble. Transgenic mice expressing the Sh ble gene under the control of a composite viral promoter were produced after introduction of the transgene into D3 ES cells. The protein was detected at high level in lungs, spleen, and kidney. We then assessed its ability to modulate the BLM-induced fibrotic response in the transgenic mice in comparison with C57BL/6 and 129/Sv parental mice. Cumulative doses of 300, 400, or 500 mg/kg BLM were administered either by i.p. or s.c. repeated injections in the different strains. Transgenic mice were shown to be clearly less sensitive to BLM toxicity, as assessed by lung histology. The pulmonary hydroxyproline content in the treated transgenic mice was close to its baseline level, whereas it was up to 50% higher than the control level in C57BL/6 and 129/Sv parental mice. These observations are consistent with the hypothesis that a resistance gene specifically expressed in lungs may prevent the BLM-induced inflammation.
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