Synthesis of surfactant components by cultured type II cells from human lung

Helen G. Liley, Robert Ertsey, Linda W. Gonzales, Michael W. Odom, Samuel Hawgood, Leland G. Dobbs, Philip L. Ballard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


We examined the effect of monolayer culture on surfactant phospholipids and proteins of type II cells isolated from human adult and fetal lung. Type II cells were prepared from cultured explants of fetal lung (16-24 weeks gestation) and from adult surgical specimens. Cells were maintained for up to 6 days on plastic tissue culture dishes. Although incorporation of [methyl-3H]choline into phosphatidylcholine (PC) by fetal cells was similar on day 1 and day 5 of culture, saturation of PC fell from 35 to 26%. In addition, there was decreased distribution of labeled acetate into PC, whereas distribution into other phospholipids increased or did not change. The decrease in saturation of newly synthesized PC was not altered by triiodothyronine (T3) and dexamethasone treatment or by culture as mixed type II cell/fibroblast monolayers. The content of surfactant protein SP-A (28-36 kDa) in fetal cells, as measured by ELISA and immunofluorescence microscopy, rose during the first day and then fell to undetectable levels by the fifth. Synthesis of SP-A, as measured by [35S]methionine labeling and immunoprecipitation, was detectable on day 1 but not thereafter. Levels of mRNAs for SP-A and for the two lipophilic surfactant proteins SP-B (18 kDa) and SP-C (5 kDa) fell with half-times of maximally 24 h. In contrast, total protein synthesis measured by [35S]methionine incorporation increased and then plateaued. In adult cells, the content of SP-A and its mRNA decreased during culture, with time-courses similar to those for fetal cells. We conclude that in monolayer culture on plastic culture dishes, human type II cells lose their ability to synthesize both phospholipids and proteins of surfactant. The control of type II cell differentiation under these conditions appears to be at a pretranslational level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)86-95
Number of pages10
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA)/Lipids and Lipid Metabolism
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 1988
Externally publishedYes


  • (Human lung)
  • (Type II cell)
  • Phospholipid
  • Surfactant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry


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