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Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2003 Dec 15;168(12):1532-7. Epub 2003 Oct 9.

Human alveolar wall fibroblasts directly link epithelial type 2 cells to capillary endothelium.

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  • 1iCAPTUR4E Center, McDonald Research Laboratories, University of British Columbia, St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, BC, V6Z 1Y6 Canada.


Alveolar wall fibroblasts directly link type 2 (T2) pneumocytes to capillary endothelium through apertures in their respective basal laminae in rabbit lung. These fibroblasts provide a bridge from the capillary to the airway lumen along which leukocytes may migrate without disrupting extracellular matrix. Normal human lungs were examined by transmission electron microscopy and serial section 3D reconstruction. We found contacts between fibroblasts and T2 pneumocytes and between fibroblasts and type 1 pneumocytes that occur at holes in the epithelial basal lamina. The same fibroblast also made contact with pericytes and endothelial cells through similar apertures. A survey of 41 T2 pneumocytes revealed that 54% of T2 pneumocytes had at least one gap in their basal lamina. A morphometric analysis showed these gaps occupied approximately 5.58 +/- 1.51% (mean +/- SE) of the area underneath T2 pneumocytes. We conclude that a population of single fibroblasts link T2 pneumocytes to adjacent capillary endothelial cells in alveolar walls of human lung. We propose that fibroblasts are organized to maintain communication between epithelium and mesenchyme and to provide directional information to migrating leukocytes.

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