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Fundam Appl Toxicol. 1992 Apr;18(3):376-88.

Methylene chloride--an inhalation study to investigate pathological and biochemical events occurring in the lungs of mice over an exposure period of 90 days.

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  • 1ICI Central Toxicology Laboratory, Macclesfield, Cheshire, United Kingdom.


Male B6C3F1 mice were exposed to 4000 ppm methylene chloride (MC) for 6 hr/day, 5 days/week for up to 13 weeks. Groups of mice were killed at intervals from Day 2 to Week 13. Whole lungs were examined morphologically, immunocytochemically, and biochemically. Biochemical and morphological examination was also performed on isolated Clara cells. The major initial morphological effect seen in lungs was acute Clara cell damage after one exposure to MC. However, this damage appeared to resolve after five consecutive daily exposures to MC. After a 2-day interval the Clara cell lesion reappeared on subsequent reexposure to MC. However, the severity of the lesion decreased over the duration of the study. The appearance and disappearance of the lesion in the Clara cell correlated well with the activity of cytochrome P450 monooxygenase in the Clara cell as assessed immunocytochemically (cytochromes P450IIB 1 and 2) in the whole lung and biochemically in the freshly isolated Clara cell (determined by ethoxycoumarin O-dealkylation and aldrin epoxidation). When there was a marked decrease in cytochrome P450 monooxygenase activity the lesion was not present. This suggested that with time the lung (Clara cell) has developed tolerance to MC possibly due to the inactivation of a cytochrome P450 isozyme. The glutathione S-transferase metabolism of MC by the lung cytosol remained virtually unaltered throughout the study. Events accompanying the discussed changes include (1) a significant increase in nonprotein sulfhydryl in the lungs of all exposed animals, (2) altered plating characteristics of the isolated Clara cells from exposed lungs after 24 hr in culture, and (3) an increase in the number of bronchiolar cells in the S-phase after the first exposure to MC. The study also demonstrates the advantages of target cell isolation and study over whole lung biochemical investigation alone.

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