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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2005 Dec 30;1720(1-2):59-72. Epub 2005 Dec 9.

Structures of pulmonary surfactant films adsorbed to an air-liquid interface in vitro.

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  • 1Division of Pneumology, University Hospital of Berne, 3010 Berne, Switzerland.


Phospholipid films can be preserved in vitro when adsorbed to a solidifiable hypophase. Suspensions of natural surfactant, lipid extract surfactants, and artificial surfactants were added to a sodium alginate solution and filled into a captive bubble surfactometer (CBS). Surfactant film was formed by adsorption to the bubble of the CBS for functional tests. There were no discernible differences in adsorption, film compressibility or minimal surface tension on quasi-static or dynamic compression for films formed in the presence or absence of alginate in the subphase of the bubble. The hypophase-film complex was solidified by adding calcium ions to the suspension with the alginate. The preparations were stained with osmium tetroxide and uranyl acetate for transmission electron microscopy. The most noteworthy findings are: (1) Surfactants do adsorb to the surface of the bubble and form osmiophilic lining layers. Pure DPPC films could not be visualized. (2) A distinct structure of a particular surfactant film depends on the composition and the concentration of surfactant in the bulk phase, and on whether or not the films are compressed after their formation. The films appear heterogeneous, and frequent vesicular and multi-lamellar film segments are seen associated with the interfacial films. These features are seen already upon film formation by adsorption, but multi-lamellar segments are more frequent after film compression. (3) The rate of film formation, its compressibility, and the minimum surface tension achieved on film compression appear to be related to the film structure formed on adsorption, which in turn is related to the concentration of the surfactant suspension from which the film is formed. The osmiophilic surface associated surfactant material seen is likely important for the surface properties and the mechanical stability of the surfactant film at the air-fluid interface.

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