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Am J Physiol. 1997 Nov;273(5 Pt 1):L1048-57.

Glucocorticoid regulation of surfactant components in immature lambs.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia 19104, USA.


To assess effects of dose and duration of glucocorticoid exposure on maturation of the fetal lung, we administered single or multiple doses of betamethasone (0.5 mg/kg im) to pregnant sheep for 2 or 21 days before preterm delivery at 125 days of gestation. Lung function (compliance, lung volume at 40 cmH2O pressure, and ventilatory efficiency index) was increased after two to four weekly doses of glucocorticoid (2.5- to 4-fold increase) and after 48 h of exposure (1.4- to 2.3-fold). Total protein of lavage fluid decreased similarly with three doses, four doses, and 48 h of treatment. In lambs with long-term exposure to betamethasone, there was a similar, dose-dependent increase in concentrations of saturated phosphatidylcholine and surfactant proteins A (SP-A) and B (SP-B) (maximal 2- to 3-fold in tissue and 10- to 15-fold in lavage fluid). Levels of SP-A and SP-B were closely correlated in lavage fluid. In animals treated for 48 h, only tissue SP-B was increased (2.7-fold). We conclude that 48 h of glucocorticoid treatment improves lung function in the premature lamb without a detectable increase in lavage surfactant components and that longer exposure to antenatal glucocorticoid increases surfactant lipid and proteins in a coordinated fashion. The enhanced response with repetitive dosing indicates that the process of glucocorticoid-induced lung maturation is either reversible and/or gestational age dependent.

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