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Pediatr Res. 1986 Jan;20(1):97-101.

Adsorption of natural lung surfactant and phospholipid extracts related to tubular myelin formation.


The microstructure of aqueous dispersions of pulmonary surfactant lipids extracted from bovine lung lavage was investigated by electron microscopic analysis. Following organic solvent extraction (chloroform/methanol) from natural lung surfactant, the mixed lipids (CLL), with 1% residual protein, were dispersed in water by two techniques, probe sonication at 4 degrees C and mechanical vortexing. Surface pressure-time adsorption isotherms were defined for the CLL dispersions, followed by staining with tannic acid, uranyl acetate, and lead citrate for electron microscopy of microstructure. CLL extract dispersions adsorbed in seconds to surface pressures near 45 dynes/cm (surface tension 25 dynes/cm) at low concentrations less than or equal to 0.25 mg/ml after dispersion by sonication of 4 degrees C and by mechanical vortexing. Ultrastructurally, the CLL dispersions were somewhat heterogeneous, but large thin-walled phospholipid vesicles, both intact and fragmented, predominated. No tubular myelin was formed. By contrast, natural lung surfactant (LS) from bronchoalveolar lavage had characteristic regions of tubular myelin when it adsorbed well at low concentrations (less than or equal to 0.25 mg phospholipid/ml). When divalent cations were removed from solution with 5 mM EDTA, this distinctive microstructure was not present and natural LS adsorbed less rapidly; higher concentrations of 0.63 mg phospholipid/ml were necessary for maximal adsorption of natural LS without tubular myelin. These results suggest that while tubular myelin is associated with optimal adsorption for natural LS, it is not a required configuration for rapid adsorption facility at low phospholipid concentrations in general. Specifically, for dispersions of surfactant extracts, other microstructures allow adsorption facility equivalent to that of natural LS with tubular myelin.

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