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J Embryol Exp Morphol. 1983 Apr;74:183-206.

Stage specificity in the mesenchyme requirement of rodent lung epithelium in vitro: a matter of growth control?


Epithelia from lung rudiments in which secondary bronchial buds are already established (14th and 13th gestational day for rat and mouse respectively) are able to undergo branching morphogenesis and cytodifferentiation in submandibular mesenchyme in vitro, whereas lung epithelium from one day younger foetuses rarely gives a morphogenetic response to submandibular mesenchyme and usually differentiates into primary (non-budding) bronchial epithelium. The failure of 13-day rat lung epithelium to respond to submandibular mesenchyme can be prevented by peeling off the submandibular mesenchyme from the lung epithelium after 2 1/2 days culture and replacing the same mesenchyme, or renewing it with fresh salivary mesenchyme ex vivo. Changes in the epithelial contour are visible by 10 h and buds form within 24 h; this is followed by branching morphogenesis in more than 66% of the samples. The number of cells in S-phase in the epithelium is doubled within 3 to 5 h after the operation and the number of mitotic cells (colchicine block) is increased during an 11 to 19 h period after the operation. Substituting stomach mesenchyme for submandibular mesenchyme after the operation failed to elicit morphogenesis or an increase in the number of S-phase cells in the epithelium. The proportion of epithelial cells in S-phase in unoperated recombinants does not differ from the proportion in the primary bronchial epithelium (non-budding) of homotypic lung recombinants, whereas the proportion of S-phase cells in operated recombinants approaches that found in the buds of homotypic lung recombinants. The distribution of S-phase cells in visibly responding recombinants 15 to 17 h after operation shows the same heterogeneity as in homotypic lung recombinants, newly formed buds having twice as many cells labelled with [3H]thymidine as the non-budding area. Cell cycle parameters of intact rat lung growing in vitro were estimated using the labelled mitoses method. Primary bronchial epithelium and bronchial buds both had a total cell cycle time of about 13 h and an S-phase of about 10 h. The growth fraction was 0.54 in the primary bronchus and 0.95 in the buds. It is suggested that, also in the recombinants, differences in the proportion of S-phase cells at any one time in morphogenetically active and inactive areas of the epithelium are due to differences in the growth fraction. It is concluded that an early event in the morphogenetic response of lung epithelium to submandibular mesenchyme after removing and restoring the mesenchyme is an increase in the size of the population of dividing cells and it is suggested that a high proportion of dividing cells in an epithelial population is a prerequisite for further interaction of epithelium and mesenchyme leading to branching morphogenesis.

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