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Anat Rec. 1989 Dec;225(4):297-309.

Cytodifferentiation of two epithelial populations of the respiratory bronchiole during fetal lung development in the rhesus monkey.

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California Primate Research Center, University of California, Davis 95616.


This study describes the cytodifferentiation of the two populations of epithelial cells found in the respiratory bronchiole of the adult rhesus monkey. One population, pseudostratified and containing ciliated, nonciliated secretory, and basal cells, is found overlying the pulmonary artery (PA). The other population, not associated with the PA, contains nonciliated cuboidal cells between alveolar outpockets. In this study we used terminal conducting airways from the lungs of fetal (90 to 155 days gestational age [DGA]), postnatal, and adult rhesus monkeys. Ciliated cells were partially differentiated at 90 DGA (54% gestation) and completely differentiated by 134 DGA (80% gestation). Nonciliated secretory cells were partially differentiated at 95 DGA (57% gestation) but did not lose all glycogen until the postnatal period. Basal cells appeared by 134 DGA (80% gestation) and matured in the postnatal period. Small mucous granule cells appeared at 125 DGA (74% gestation) and did not change throughout fetal development. Neuroendocrine cells were present throughout the entire period studied. Nonciliated cuboidal bronchiolar cells of the nonciliated population of the respiratory bronchiole appeared at 105 DGA (62% gestation) and matured in the postnatal period. We conclude that 1) although most of the differentiation of the lower airway occurs before birth, most of the cell types are not completely differentiated at birth; 2) the sequence of differentiation for the cells of the ciliated pseudostratified epithelial population is ciliated, nonciliated secretory, and basal; 3) the sequence of differentiation for the nonciliated secretory cell is similar to that of the secretory cells in more proximal airways; and 4) basal, neuroendocrine, and small mucous granule cells are not a part of the differentiation sequence of the other cell types.

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