C A S E R E P O R T Open Access
Genotype–phenotype correlation in two
Polish neonates with alveolar capillary
, Zuzanna Owsiańska
, Joanna P. Wroblewska
, Apolonia Kałużna
, Andrzej Marszałek
, Bartłomiej Mroziński
, Qian Liu
, Justyna A. Karolak
, Gail Deutsch
and Tomasz Szczapa
Background: Alveolar capillary dysplasia (ACD) is a rare cause of severe pulmonary hypertension and respiratory
failure in neonates. The onset of ACD is usually preceded by a short asymptomatic period. The condition is
refractory to all available therapies as it irreversibly affects development of the capillary bed in the lungs. The
diagnosis of ACD is based on histopathological evaluation of lung biopsy or autopsy tissue or genetic testing of
FOXF1 on chromosome 16q24.1. Here, we describe the first two Polish patients with ACD confirmed by
histopathological and genetic examination.
Case presentation: The patients were term neonates with high Apgar scores in the first minutes of life. They both
were diagnosed prenatally with heart defects. Additionally, the first patient presented with omphalocele. The
neonate slightly deteriorated around 12
hour of life, but underwent surgical repair of omphalocele followed by
mechanical ventilation. Due to further deterioration, therapy included inhaled nitric oxide (iNO), inotropes and
surfactant administration. The second patient was treated with prostaglandin E1 since birth due to suspicion of
aortic coarctation (CoA). After ruling out CoA in the 3
day of life, infusion of prostaglandin E1 was discountinued
and immediately patient’s condition worsened. Subsequent treatment included re-administration of prostaglandin
E1, iNO and mechanical ventilation. Both patients presented with transient improvement after application of iNO,
but died despite maximized therapy. They were histopathologically diagnosed post-mortem with ACD. Array
comparative genomic hybridization in patient one and patient two revealed copy-number variant (CNV) deletions,
respectively, ~ 1.45 Mb in size involving FOXF1 and an ~ 0.7 Mb in size involving FOXF1 enhancer and leaving FOXF1
Conclusions: Both patients presented with a distinct course of ACD, extra-pulmonary manifestations and response
to medications. Surgery and ceasing of prostaglandin E1 infusion should be considered as potential causes of this
variability. We further highlight the necessity of thorough genetic testing and histopathological examination and
propose immunostaining for CD31 and CD34 to facilitate the diagnostic process for better management of infants
Keywords: Alveolar capillary dysplasia, FOXF1 mutation, Respiratory failure, Neonate, Pulmonary hypertension
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* Correspondence: email@example.com
Department of Neonatology, Neonatal Biophysical Monitoring and
Cardiopulmonary Therapies Research Unit, Poznan University of Medical
Sciences, Poznan, Poland
Full list of author information is available at the end of the article
Kozłowska et al. BMC Pediatrics (2020) 20:320
Respiratory failure is a common problem in the Neo-
natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and the diagnosis is
often a challenge. Severe respiratory failure is usually ob-
served in neonates with interstitial parenchymal lung
diseases and congenital cardiac defects.
Alveolar capillary dysplasia with misalignment of pul-
monary veins (ACDMPV) (MIM# 265380), frequently
referred to as alveolar capillary dysplasia (ACD), is a rare
disorder, leading to early severe respiratory distress with
a persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN) and almost
universally to death. Most of the affected infants present
hypoxic respiratory failure within 48 h of life that is re-
fractory to all medical therapies, including pulmonary
In 80–90% of histopathologically-verified ACD cases,
loss-of-function of the FOXF1 gene (MIM# 601089) on
16q24.1 or its distant upstream lung-specific enhancer has
been described [1–4]. FOXF1 encodes a Forkhead box F1
transcription factor primarily expressed in mesoderm-
derived tissues during lung organogenesis, involved in de-
velopment of pulmonary alveoli and capillaries [5–7].
Here, we present two neonates hospitalized in the ter-
tiary NICU due to severe respiratory failure and pul-
monary hypertension. Both patients were diagnosed with
ACD due to different-sized heterozygous copy-number
variant (CNV) deletions within the FOXF1 gene locus on
16q24.1. They are the first patients with histopathologic-
ally- and genetically-confirmed ACD in Poland.
A male neonate (birth weight: 2920 g) was born via caesar-
ean section at 39+1weeks of gestation in a non-tertiary
hospital. On prenatal examination polyhydramnios, om-
phalocele, hydronephrosis of the right kidney and ven-
tricular septal defect (VSD) were suspected.
Amniocentesis showed 47, XY,+22 cells in the sample,
however, postnatal karyotype was normal (46,XY). The
Apgar scores were 9 at the 1
and 10 at the 5
life. The infant was transferred to the NICU in a stable
condition. In the 12
hour of life, oxygen saturation mea-
sured with pulse oximetry (SpO
) decreased below 90% -
passive oxygen therapy was applied with FiO
cal repair of omphalocele was performed at 17
life. Due to respiratory deterioration after the surgery, the
newborn received conventional mechanical ventilation
=0.4. Persistent pulmonary hypertension, atrial
septal defect (ASD) and VSD were diagnosed on echocar-
diography examination. PPHN was treated with iNO but
only with transient improvement. On the second day of
life, the patient required ventilation with FiO
tant administration and inotropes. On the third day, SpO
remained persistently below 80%. Consequently, the infant
was switched to high frequency ventilation but without
any improvement. Despite continuation of this therapy
during the next few days, SpO
decreased further below
60%. Physical examination showed hepatosplenomegaly.
Additional testing revealed coagulopathy, lack of peristal-
sis, congestion in the lungs, and metabolic acidosis. The
patient died on the 13
day of life after a cardiac arrest
and ineffective cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
A male neonate (birth weight: 2400 g) was born via vagi-
nal delivery at 39 weeks of gestation. On the prenatal
examination fetal growth restriction and coarctation of
the aorta (CoA) were suspected. The infant was born in
a non-tertiary hospital in good condition; the Apgar
scores were 8 at the 1
and 10 at the 5
newborn presented with peripheral cyanosis in the first
hours of life and a difference between pre- and post-
ductal saturation ranging about 10% was noted. Con-
tinuous infusion of prostaglandin E1 was applied due to
prenatal suspicion of CoA. Initial echocardiogram
showed ASD and VSD. On the second day of life, the in-
fant was transferred to the NICU in Poznań. During the
echocardiography examination infusion of prostaglandin
was stopped and the infant suddenly deteriorated. CoA
was not confirmed. The echocardiography revealed
PPHN with a large ductus arteriosus (bidirectional shunt
with right to left predominance) and narrow pulmonary
veins. The patient was intubated, prostaglandin infusion
was re-administered and PPHN was treated with iNO,
resulting in immediate improvement. During the next
few days, deterioration of the general condition with in-
creasing oxygen demand up to 100% oxygen was ob-
served. On the 9
day of life, SpO
was below 65%
despite maximized respiratory support. Physical examin-
ation displayed liver and spleen enlargement. Additional
testing showed hypotension, lack of peristalsis, conges-
tion in the lungs and metabolic acidosis. On the 10
of life, cardiopulmonary resuscitation was not effective
and the patient died due to cardiac arrest.
Histopathological and genetic findings
Lung tissue specimens were collected by post-mortem
biopsy in both patients. Informed consents for histo-
pathological examination of the lung samples and gen-
etic testing were obtained from the patients’parents.
Lung tissue from a 2-week-old term infant was used as
an internal control.
Formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) lung tissue
samples were stained with hematoxylin and eosin (H&E).
In addition, immunohistochemical (IHC) staining was
Kozłowska et al. BMC Pediatrics (2020) 20:320 Page 2 of 7
performed on 4.5 μm FFPE tissue sections, using the En
Vision™FLEX GV800 (Dako) IHC Kit with specific mono-
clonal antibodies for CD34 and CD31. The IHC reaction
was carried out using the OMNIS (Dako) or the Bench-
Mark Ultra (Ventana Roche). Results were verified with an
Olympus microscope. All stained tissue slides were ar-
chived by the VisionTek® Digital Microscope (Sakura).
Genomic DNA isolation was performed using the Mag-
CoreNucleid Acid Extractor (RBC Bioscience) with the
sets of reagents dedicated to FFPE samples. DNA was
quantified with the NanoDrop 2000 spectrophotometer
PCR reactions were performed using C1000 Touch ther-
mal cycler (BioRad), with set of primers covering the
whole coding region of FOXF1. Primers and PCR condi-
tions are available on request. After amplification, PCR
products were purified in an enzymatic reaction, diluted
and sequenced using the forward and reverse primers
with the BigDye Terminator 3.1 kit (ThermoFisher Sci-
entific) according to manufacturer’s instruction. Next,
products were purified by ethanol precipitation and ana-
lyzed with the 3500 Genetic Analyzer (Applied Biosys-
tems) and the CodonCodeAlligner Software
Array comparative genomic hybridization (array CGH)
The array CGH analysis of patients was performed using
a customized 16q24.1-specific high-resolution 180 K
microarray (Agilent Technologies), as described .
In both cases, histopathological examination of post
mortem lung biopsy samples revealed a significant de-
crease in the capillary network as well as abnormal shunt
vessels in the bronchovascular bundle and blood-air bar-
rier underdevelopment, features characteristic for ACD.
Diffuse thickening of interalveolar septa, reduction of
density and malpositioning of pulmonary alveolar capil-
laries were also observed. Residual acute alveolar damage
was slightly more pronounced in Patient 1′samples. Im-
munostaining for the endothelial markers CD34 and
CD31 highlights poor approximation of the alveolar ca-
pillaries to epithelial cells and marked congestion com-
pared to control lung from the term infant resulting in
disruption of air-blood barrier (Fig. 1.)
Direct sequencing did not reveal any clinically relevant
single nucleotide variants or indels within the coding
portion of FOXF1 in these patients. Array CGH revealed
the heterozygous CNV deletions at 16q24.1 region in
both cases. In Patient 1, an ~ 1.45 Mb CNV deletion
(chr16:85,863,000-87,370,500, hg19) involving FOXF1,
its upstream enhancer (LINC01082,LINC01082) and
FOXL1 was identified (Fig. 2b). In the second patient, an
~ 0.7 Mb CNV deletion (chr16:85,738,000-86,446,500,
hg19) removed the upstream FOXF1 enhancer
(LINC01082 and LINC01082) and COX411,IRF8,
LINC00917, leaving the FOXF1 gene intact (Fig. 2c). The
inheritance status of these deletions is unknown.
Discussion and conclusions
ACD is a rare lethal lung developmental disorder char-
acterized by severe pulmonary hypertension observed
typically shortly after birth . Histopathologically, dis-
ruptions in lung development result in a reduced density
of lung vessels and abnormal lobular structure. Cur-
rently, there is no successful treatment available for pa-
tients diagnosed with the typical presentation of ACD.
Neither concomitant administration of iNO and prosta-
cyclin nor the use of paracorporeal lung assist device
followed by lung transplantation were effective . How-
ever, a few infants with atypical ACD characterized by
late onset of symptoms, milder manifestations or focal
histopathological changes responded to therapy lasting
for months [9–11]. Bilateral lung transplant may be a
therapeutic alternative in these patients; its effectiveness
was similar to lung transplants performed in patients
with other indications . Of note, all the infants re-
ported with successful lung transplant underwent open
lung biopsy before the procedure and the diagnosis was
known prior to the surgery [1,12] Hence, early diagnosis
of ACD is vital in the decision-making process.
Thus far, only one case of an ACD newborn was re-
ported in Poland. However, no genetic testing was per-
formed . Here, we present two cases of ACD that
were confirmed by both histochemical and genetic test-
ing. Different-sized heterozygous losses at chromosome
16q24.1 were detected using array CGH analyses.
Whereas the CNV deletion in Patient 1 involved FOXF1,
the CNV deletion observed in Patient 2 removed the up-
stream FOXF1 enhancer, leaving the FOXF1 gene intact.
These findings further confirm that the non-coding gen-
omic interval mapping upstream to FOXF1 is essential
for human lung development .
Unfortunately, genetic testing is not always easily avail-
able. Moreover, the negative genetic result does not ex-
clude the diagnosis in suspected patients  and
histopathological assessment of lung biopsy or autopsy
samples by an experienced pathologist remains the gold
standard in diagnosing ACD. Recommendations of the
chILD Pathologic Co-operative Group state that apart
from standard H&E stains, appropriate staining for
structural components and immunostaining should be
adjusted to the clinical situation . However, there are
Kozłowska et al. BMC Pediatrics (2020) 20:320 Page 3 of 7
no specific guidelines which methods are the most useful
diagnostic tools. Since CD31 is the most specific and
sensitive marker visible in paraffin sections showing both
small and large vessels and CD34 determines microves-
sels density, we propose that immunostaining for these
markers can bring added value in the ACD diagnostic
It is typical for patients diagnosed with ACD to
present with good general condition within first 24–48 h
of life, known also as a “honeymoon period”. However,
Patient 1 required a high fraction of oxygen already 12 h
after birth and the asymptomatic period was exception-
ally short. The course of PPHN was fulminant without
noticeable effects of the therapy. On the contrary,
Patient 2’s condition worsened only on the 3
day of life
exceeding the typical asymptomatic stage. Moreover, his
health status further deteriorated gradually after the ini-
tial response to iNO. Interestingly, prompt presentation
of ACD symptoms in this case was triggered by discon-
tinuance of the intravenous infusion of prostaglandin E
The mechanism of this deterioration is probably best ex-
plained by right ventricular (RV) failure. As the PDA got
narrower or closed after ceasing prostaglandin E
failure worsened from pumping against high pulmonary
vascular resistance associated with ACD. Given that oc-
casionally patients are asymptomatic within the neonatal
period, potential triggers leading to pulmonary hyperten-
sive crisis and fatal exacerbation should be thoroughly
Fig. 1 Histopathological examination of lung samples showing characteristic features of ACDMPV. Haematoxylin and eosin staining (H&E) of lung
tissue obtained post-mortem showing abnormal shunt vessels (arrows) in the bronchovascular bundle and diffuse thickening of inter-alveolar
septa with reduced density of capillaries. Immunostaining for the endothelial markers CD 31 and CD34 highlights poor approximation of the
alveolar capillaries to epithelial cells and marked congestion compared to control lung from a term infant. As a result, the air-blood barrier was
disrupted. H&E: a) patient 1, b) patient 2; CD31: c) control, d) patient 1, e) patient 2; CD34: f) control, g) patient 1, h) patient 2
Kozłowska et al. BMC Pediatrics (2020) 20:320 Page 4 of 7
investigated. Goel et al. suggested the possible factors
can include respiratory or urinary tract infections .
In our patients, clinical conditions deteriorated after ex-
perienced stress either associated with surgery or with
rapid discontinuation of prostaglandin infusion, suggest-
ing that these factors could play a role in the origin of
In histopathological examination both neonates had
the similar lung defect. Patient 1 had more alveolar dam-
age, however it may be due to longer mechanical ventila-
tion that was initiated sooner during the treatment
process. Although most authors claim that there are no
visible differences in histopathologic images between pa-
tients with fulminant form of the disease presented in
neonatal period and so-called “long survivors”, some
argue that the abnormalities in the tissue architecture,
especially capillary density, lobular development and
range of involvement are less severe among children
with late onset of ACD . Moreover, Melly et al. de-
scribed a phenotype characterized by overlapping ACD
and chronic lung disease features, based on clinical data
and histopathologic findings . They highlighted older
age at diagnosis, partially better outcome and higher
density of capillaries seen in the lung material taken
from these patients as compared to children recognized
as typical ACD. It may constitute a step forward distin-
guishing prediction factors of survival and relatively bet-
ter clinical course among affected children.
Previous results showed that haploinsufficiency of
FOXF1 either due to point mutations or CNV deletions
overlapping FOXF1 or its upstream regulatory region
leads to full lung manifestation of ACD . Only once,
the 16q deletion involving FOXF1 enhancer was associ-
ated with pulmonary capillary hemangiomatosis . In
contrast, phenotypic differences have been observed for
co-existing extra-pulmonary anomalies. Interestingly, hy-
poplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) and single umbil-
ical artery have been reported in ACD newborns with
CNV deletions involving FOXF1, FOXC2, FOXL1, and
FENDRR ; only one infant with ACD and HLHS
caused by de novo likely pathogenic c.209_214del
(p.Thr70_Leu71del) variant in FOXF1 was described
. However, screening of FOXC2 and FOXL1 in pa-
tients with HLHS revealed no point mutations in those
genes . Of note, homozygous deletion of Fendrr in
mice results in lethal cardiac and lung defects , sug-
gesting that heart anomalies observed in ACD patients
can be associated with FENDRR disruption.
Fig. 2 Results of array CGH analyses. aSchematic representation of genes mapping within the 16q24.1 (hg19) interval, including FOXF1,FENDRR,
LINC01081 and LINC01082 (pink rectangles). bArray CGH plot showing an ~ 1.45 Mb CNV deletion in Patient 1, involving the FOXF1 gene, its
upstream enhancer (LINC01082,LINC01082), and IRF8,LINC00917,FENDRR,MTHFSD,FOXC2, and FOXL1.cArray CGH plot showing an ~ 0.7 Mb CNV
deletion in Patient 2, involving the upstream FOXF1 enhancer (LINC01082 and LINC01082), COX411,IRF8,LINC00917, and leaving the FENDRR and
FOXF1 genes intact
Kozłowska et al. BMC Pediatrics (2020) 20:320 Page 5 of 7
While both newborns, reported here, were diagnosed
with heart defects, ASD and VSD, Patient 1 also presented
other extra-pulmonary features, including omphalocele,
hydronephrosis, and polyhydramnios observed in prenatal
examination. Except for omphalocele, similar non-lung
manifestation was reported by Yu et al. in another infant
with ACD and overlapping CNV deletion on 16q24, includ-
ing FENDRR and FOXF1 . In addition, the coexistence
of ACD with CoA and hydronephrosis was observed in the
newborn with ACD (pt 135.3) and similar CNV deletion
. On the other hand, Patient 2 had 16q24 CNV deletion
similar to deletion previously detected in pt. 47.4 (D9),
which involved the upstream enhancer region, overlapping
long non-coding RNA genes, LINC01081 and LINC01082
and leaving FENDRR and FOXF1 intact [3,24]. In contrast
to pt. 47.4 (D9) [3,24], who had intestinal malrotation, im-
perforate anus, and butterfly vertebrae, no similar defect
was observed in our Patient 2.
Most of CNV deletions found in patients with ACD
arise de novo on the maternal chromosome, what sug-
gests genomic imprinting of the FOXF1 locus . How-
ever, in the described cases the inheritance status of
these deletions is unknown as samples from the parents
were not available for analysis.
In conclusion, we present two cases diagnosed with
ACD based on typical histopathological picture but with
diverse clinical presentation and distinct abnormalities
within the FOXF1 gene cluster on 16q24.1. Presented
cases emphasize the importance of both genetic testing
and histopathological examination of the lung in neo-
nates with refractory respiratory failure.
ACD: Alveolar capillary dysplasia; ACDMPV: Alveolar capillary dysplasia with
misalignment of pulmonary veins; array CGH: array comparative genomic
hybridization; ASD: Atrial septal defect; CLD: Chronic lung disease;
CNV: Copy-number variant; CoA: Coarctation of the aorta; FFPE: Formalin-
fixed paraffin-embedded; H&E: Hematoxylin and eosin; HLHS: Hypoplastic left
heart syndrome; IHC: Immunohistochemical; iNO: inhaled nitric oxide;
NICU: Neonatal Intensive Care Unit; PDA: Patent ductus arteriosus;
PPHN: Persistent pulmonary hypertension of a newborn; RV: Right ventricle;
: Oxygen saturation measured by pulse oximetry; VSD: Ventricular septal
We thank Dr. Edwina Popek for her assistance in interpretation of histology
ZK, ZO, TS collected, analysed and interpreted patients’data and had the
major contribution in writing the manuscript. JPW, AK, AM, GD performed
histological examination of the samples. JPW, AK, AM performed genetic
analysis as well as described the results in the manuscript. YS interpreted the
echocardiography results and revised the manuscript. BM performed
echocardiography of both patients and interpreted the results. QL performed
an array CGH experiment. JK and PS analyzed, interpreted and described the
array CGH data. MSB critically revised the manuscript. All authors contributed
to intellectual content of the manuscript and approved its final version.
This work was supported by a garnt awarded by National Heart, Lung and
Blood Institute (NHLBI) Grant R01HL137203 to PS.
Availability of data and materials
The datasets used and/or analysed during the current study are available
from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
Ethics approval and consent to participate
Parents’informed consents for post-mortem histopathological examination
of the lung samples were obtained.
Consent for publication
Written informed consents for the publication of the case report have been
obtained from patients’parents.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Department of Neonatology, Neonatal Biophysical Monitoring and
Cardiopulmonary Therapies Research Unit, Poznan University of Medical
Sciences, Poznan, Poland.
Department of Pathology, Poznan University of
Medical Sciences and Greater Poland Cancer Center, Poznan, Poland.
Department of Neonatology and Paediatric Cardiology, Cambridge
University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridge, UK.
Pediatric Cardiology and Nephrology, Poznan University of Medical Sciences,
Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor
College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA.
Chair and Department of Genetics
and Pharmaceutical Microbiology, Poznan University of Medical Sciences,
Department of Pathology, Seattle Children’s Hospital,
Received: 3 May 2020 Accepted: 12 June 2020
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