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J Appl Physiol (1985). 1994 Sep;77(3):1060-6.

Alveolar septal structure in different species.

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Department of Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710.


Because the retractive forces due to surface tension decrease with increasing radius of curvature, there should be a greater contribution to lung recoil attributable to the stress-bearing role of elastic elements in the lung parenchyma of species with larger alveoli. To examine alterations in lung structure that may relate to this stress-bearing role, the lungs of mice, hamsters, rats, rabbits, rhesus monkeys, baboons, and humans were preserved by vascular perfusion of fixative. The number of alveoli per lung, alveolar radius of curvature, surface area, and volume were measured by serial section reconstruction. Electron-microscopic determinations were made of the volume fraction and thickness of the epithelium, interstitium, and endothelium and of the connective tissue fibers of the alveolar septa and the portions of alveolar septa that form the alveolar ducts. The thickness of the alveolar septal interstitium increased linearly with the increase in radius of curvature of alveoli. The increase in interstitial thickness in lungs with larger alveoli was paralleled by large increases in the volume of collagen and elastin fibers present in this space. Comparable changes in the thickness of connective tissue fibers in alveolar duct walls were also found. This study demonstrates species-related changes in the structure of alveolar septa and in lung collagen and elastin fibers that are consistent with connective tissue fibers having a greater stress-bearing role in both the alveolar septa and alveolar ducts of species with larger alveoli.

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