Alterations in surfactant protein gene expression associated with premature birth and exposure to hyperoxia

P. Minoo, L. Segura, J. J. Coalson, R. J. King, R. A. DeLemos

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36 Scopus citations


Steady-state levels of mRNAs for the three surfactant-associated proteins, SP-A, SP-B, and SP-C, were measured in a primate model of premature birth and survival. These values were determined by Northern and quantitative slot blot analyses of total lung RNA during both in utero and extrauterine development of the fetus as well as in response to hyperoxic exposure. The composition and surface properties of surfactant were also analyzed to determine the effect of differential expression of the surfactant proteins on the overall composition and function of surfactant. The data clearly demonstrate that the regulation of surfactant mRNA levels in the premature fetus is under complex physiological control. Interruption of in utero development by premature birth results in increased levels of all three surfactant mRNAs, presumably in response to precocious initiation of air breathing. Within the first 24 h after parturition both SP-B and SP-C mRNA levels are increased beyond the levels found in the full-term fetal controls. Expression of mRNA for these genes peaks on day 2 and thereafter drops to levels below that found on day 1. However, response of the SP-A gene to premature birth is slow and transcripts from this gene lag considerably behind values found in the full-term fetus. Furthermore, exposure of the premature fetus to hyperoxia results in an increase in the steady-state levels of SP-B and SP-C mRNA without significant changes in SP-A. Defects in the ability of the SP-A gene to respond to extrauterine exposure and hyperoxia may be contributing to development of bronchopulmonary dysplasia, a common clinical complication of premature birth in humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L386-L392
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number6 5-3
StatePublished - 1991


  • Bronchopulmonary dysplasia
  • Developmental gene regulation
  • Surfactant protein mRNAs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


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