Preterm infants with bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) and pulmonary hypertension (PH) have accelerated lung aging and poor long-term outcomes. Klotho is an antiaging protein that modulates oxidative stress, angiogenesis and fibrosis. Here we test the hypothesis that decreased cord Klotho levels in preterm infants predict increased BPD–PH risk and early Klotho supplementation prevents BPD-like phenotype and PH in rodents exposed to neonatal hyperoxia. In experiment 1, Klotho levels were measured in cord blood of preterm infants who were enrolled in a longitudinal cohort study. In experiment 2, using an experimental BPD–PH model, rat pups exposed to room air or hyperoxia (85% O2) were randomly assigned to receive every other day injections of recombinant Klotho or placebo. The effect of Klotho on lung structure, PH and cardiac function was assessed. As compared to controls, preterm infants with BPD or BPD–PH had decreased cord Klotho levels. Early Klotho supplementation in neonatal hyperoxia-exposed rodents preserved lung alveolar and vascular structure, attenuated PH, reduced pulmonary vascular remodeling and improved cardiac function. Together, these findings have important implications as they suggest that perinatal Klotho deficiency contributes to BPD–PH risk and strategies that preserve Klotho levels, may improve long-term cardiopulmonary outcomes in preterm infants.
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