Altered turnover and synthesis rates of lung surfactant following thoracic irradiation Academic Article uri icon


  • Between 2-6 weeks after thoracic irradiation with 10 Gy X rays, when levels of surfactant in the alveoli show the greatest increase, there is a reduction in the rate of radioactivity loss from 3H-choline labeled disaturated phosphatidylcholine from the lung. This indicates a reduced turnover of surfactant. Discrepancies between the halving times for specific activity and for total radioactivity of the disaturated phospholipids suggest that at between 2 and 3 weeks post-irradiation, removal and degradation of surfactant almost ceases, but that synthesis continues normally. However, by 3 weeks post-irradiation, choline-3H incorporation into disaturated phosphatidylcholine suggests that surfactant synthesis is increased about two-fold. The reduced number of macrophages recovered from alveolar lavage between about 2 and 6 weeks post-irradiation may indicate a reason for the lengthened turnover times of surfactant over this period. Nevertheless the stimulated surfactant production that takes place from about 3 weeks onward suggests an additional active response to radiation or to radiation damage by the type II pneumonocytes. These studies confirm that the maximum levels of alveolar surfactant seen at 3 weeks post-irradiation result from a different lung response than that responsible for the increase in surfactant, which occurs within hours of irradiation.

publication date

  • February 1987