Every cell in the body expresses a set of proteins designed to trigger permeabilization of the mitochondria and cell death. Inactivation or inappropriate triggering of these pathways is increasingly recognized as a contributor to human disease. A study in this issue of the JCI demonstrates that IL-6 exerts its protective effect against the development of lung injury following exposure of mice to 95% O2 by increasing the expression of a Bcl-2–related protein, A1. This protein acts to prevent mitochondrial membrane permeabilization and cell death following exposure to hyperoxia. The data in this study lend support to the hypothesis that inappropriate triggering of cell-death pathways may contribute to the development of hyperoxic pulmonary edema, lung injury, and respiratory failure.
G.R. Scott Budinger, Jacob I. Sznajder