Fatty diabetic lung: Altered alveolar structure and surfactant protein expression

David J. Foster, Priya Ravikumar, Dennis J. Bellotto, Roger H Unger, Connie C Hsia

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63 Scopus citations


Pulmonary dysfunction develops in type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) in direct correlation with glycemia and is exacerbated by obesity; however, the associated structural derangement has not been quantified. We studied lungs from obese diabetic (fa/fa) male Zucker diabetic fatty (ZDF) rats at 4, 12, and 36 wk of age, before and after onset of T2DM, compared with lean nondiabetic (′+/+) rats. Surfactant proteins A and C (SP-A and SP-C) immunoexpression in lung tissue was quantified at ages 14 and 18 wk, after the onset of T2DM. In fa/fa animals, lung volume was normal despite obesity. Numerous lipid droplets were visible within alveolar interstitium, lipofibroblasts, and macrophages, particularly in subpleural regions. Total triglyceride content was 136% higher. By 12 wk, septum volume was 21% higher, and alveolar duct volume was 36% lower. Capillary basement membrane was 29% thicker. Volume of lamellar bodies was 45% higher. By age 36 wk, volumes of interstitial collagen fibers, cells, and matrix were respectively 32, 25, and 80% higher, and capillary blood volume was 18% lower. ZDF rats exhibited a strain-specific increase in resistance of the air-blood diffusion barrier with age, which was exaggerated in fa/fa lungs compared with +/+ lungs. In fa/fa lungs, SP-A and SP-C expression were elevated at age 14-18 wk; the normal age-related increase in SP-A expression was accelerated, whereas SP-C expression declined with age. Thus lungs from obese T2DM animals develop many qualitatively similar changes as in type 1 diabetes mellitus but with extensive lipid deposition, altered alveolar type 2 cell ultrastructure, and surfactant protein expression patterns that suggest additive effects of hyperglycemia and lipotoxicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L392-L403
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2010


  • Collagen
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Lipid deposition
  • Lung morphometry
  • Surfactant-associated proteins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


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