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Am J Physiol. 1995 May;268(5 Pt 1):L772-80.

Degradation of surfactant lipids and surfactant protein A by alveolar macrophages in vitro.

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Cardiovascular Research Institute, University of California, San Francisco 94143, USA.


Pulmonary surfactant is synthesized and secreted into the airspaces by the alveolar type II cell. After it is secreted, surfactant undergoes a series of poorly understood transformations resulting in formation of a surface tension-reducing surface at the air-liquid interface. The by-products of the surface film and/or other products of surfactant metabolism are eventually cleared from the alveolar space. Both the alveolar type II cell and the macrophage are thought to be involved in surfactant clearance and have been shown to internalize surfactant lipid in vitro. The goal of the current investigation was to characterize further and to quantitate the role of the macrophage in surfactant clearance by investigating the uptake and metabolism of surfactant lipids and surfactant protein A (SP-A) by macrophages in vitro. SP-A enhanced the uptake of lipids by macrophages in a time-, temperature-, and concentration-dependent manner. In contrast, neither of the collagen-like proteins SP-D or C1q enhanced the uptake. Phosphatidylcholine was rapidly degraded by macrophages and the degradation occurred both in the presence and absence of SP-A. In addition, macrophages degrade SP-A by a process that is time- and temperature-dependent. These results and calculations of uptake and degradation rates suggest that macrophages may contribute significantly to the process of surfactant clearance.

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