Journal of Applied Physiology

Type II pneumocyte changes during hyperoxic lung injury and recovery

B. A. Holm, S. Matalon, J. N. Finkelstein, R. H. Notter


Adult rabbits exposed to 100% O2 for 64 h and then returned to room air for up to 200 h, develop a lung injury characterized by decreased levels of alveolar surfactant followed by a rebound recovery. In the present study we isolated alveolar type II cells from rabbits at various times during hyperoxic exposure and recovery and measured rates of phosphatidylcholine (PC) synthesis, cellular lipid content, and the specific activity of glycerol 3-phosphate (G-3-P) acyltransferase, an enzyme that catalyzes one of the early reactions in phosphoglyceride biosynthesis. These biochemical parameters were compared with measurements of cell size and cell cycle phase by laser flow cytometry. Results showed that alterations in alveolar phospholipid levels in vivo correlated consistently with cellular lipid metabolic changes measured in isolated type II pneumocytes. In particular, alveolar pneumocytes isolated from lungs of rabbits exposed to 100% O2 for 64 h exhibited a 60% decrease in PC synthesis, cell lipid content, and G-3-P acyltransferase activity. All variables then followed a pattern of recovery to normal and ultimately supranormal levels beginning at approximately 3 days postexposure, at which point there was also a measured increase in the number of type II cells in S phase. These findings suggest that O2-induced changes in type II cell surfactant biosynthesis may account, at least in part, for observed changes in lung phospholipid levels in vivo.