Site specificity of surfactant protein expression in airways of baboons during gestation

Jacqueline J. Coalson, Vicki Winter, Funmei Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: There are disparate reports concerning the presence of surfactant proteins in the airways of lung. The recent finding of SP-A in tracheobronchial epithelium and submucosal glands in lungs from second trimester humans has renewed interest in potential new functions of surfactant in lung biology. Methods: In situ hybridization studies were done to determine the distribution of SP-A, SP-B, and SP-C in baboon lung specimens from 60, 90, 120, 140, 160, and 180 (term) days of gestation and adults. Lungs from gestation controls were obtained at the time of hysterotomy and adult lungs at necropsy. Riboprobes used for in situ hybridization contained the entire coding regions for human SP-A, SP-B, and SP-C. Results: At 60 days, SP-C mRNA expression was evident in focal portions of primitive tubular epithelium but not bronchi. This distal pattern of SP-C mRNA expression persisted and was present in some epithelial cells of respiratory bronchioles at term. At 90 days, SP-A mRNA expression was present in the epithelium of trachea and large bronchi. SP-B mRNA expression was found in small bronchi, bronchioles, and distal tubular epithelium at 120 days of gestation. SP-A mRNA bronchiolar localization became evident at 140 days of gestation and alveolar type 2 cellular expression at 160 days of gestation. Abrupt transitions of surfactant protein expression were identified (e.g., SP-A mRNA-positive cells in the epithelium of large bronchi with adjoining SP-B mRNA expression in small bronchi and bronchioles). Conclusions: Findings in the baboon indicate that there are well-delineated sites of surfactant protein mRNA expression in bronchial and bronchiolar epithelia. mRNA expressions of SP-A and SP-B are present in both bronchial and bronchiolar epithelium but at different sites, whereas SP-C expression is seen in loci of epithelial cells in respiratory bronchioles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)300-315
Number of pages16
JournalAnatomical Record
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1998


  • Airway
  • Baboon
  • Bronchiole
  • Bronchus
  • In situ hybridization
  • SP-A
  • SP-B
  • SP-C
  • Surfactant
  • mRNA expression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)


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