Differentiation of type II cells of human fetal lung in vitro

Jeanne M. Snyder, John M. Johnston, Carole R. Mendelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


Lung tissue expiants from mid-trimester human abortuses were maintained for 8 days in organ culture in medium with or without serum. Before the start of culture the cells lining the pre-alveolar ducts were undifferentiated and contained no lamellar bodies, the intracellular organelle that contains surfactant. After 4 days in organ culture, the epithelium lining the pre-alveolar ducts was composed of differentiated type II cells containing numerous lamellar bodies. During the 8-day culture period there was increased incorporation of [3H]choline into phosphatidylcholine and disaturated phosphatidylcholine. In addition, the specific activity of phosphatidate phosphohydrolase, a regulatory enzyme in lung phospholipid synthesis, increased 4-fold during the culture period. Lamellar bodies isolated by differential centrifugation from expiants maintained in culture for 7 days had the characteristic ultrastructure described for this organelle. Lamellar bodies were isolated from expiants which had been incubated with [14C]glycerol. When the glycerophospholipid composition of lamellar bodies was analyzed it was found that the majority of the radiolabeled glycerol (74%) was incorporated into phosphatidylcholine and into the anionic phospholipids, phosphatidylglycerol (5%) and phosphatidylinositol (6%). Thus, human fetal lung expiants maintained in organ culture contain differentiated type II cells which synthesize surfactant characteristic of human fetal lung at 36 to 38 weeks of gestation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-25
Number of pages9
JournalCell and Tissue Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1981


  • Differentiation
  • Human
  • Lamellar bodies
  • Lung
  • Phospholipids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology
  • Cell Biology


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