One-Month Exposure to Inhaled Endotoxin Produces a Dose-Dependent Increase in Stored Mucosubstances in Rat Intrapulmonary Airways
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This study examined the production of stored mucosubtances in rats after repeated exposure to aerosolized endotoxin, a common contaminant of bioaerosols. Male Fischer 344 rats were exposed to aerosolized saline (sham control) or endotoxin (target concentrations of 0.05, 0.5, and 5.0 micrograms/m3) for 3 h/day, 5 days/week for 4 weeks. Following the final exposure, the left lung of each animal was lavaged and the right lung and nasal cavity were fixed with buffered formalin. Morphometric examination of Alcian blue/Periodic acid Schiffs-stained (AB/PAS) lung sections demonstrated dose-dependent increases in stored intraepithelial mucosubstances in the intrapulmonary airways of endotoxin-exposed rats. Threefold and eightfold increases in stored mucosubstances were observed in generation 5 airways of animals exposed to 0.5 or 5.0 microgram/m3 endotoxin, respectively (p < .05). This mucous cell metaplasia in the intrapulmonary airways was not accompanied by evidence of lung inflammation or increased AB/PAS-staining high molecular weight material in lavage fluid. Furthermore, despite significant deposition of endotoxin aerosols (mass median aerodynamic diameter of 1.9 microns) in the nasal cavity, no significant changes in stored mucosubstances were observed in the nasal septum. In animals repeatedly exposed to 5.0 micrograms/m3 endotoxin and allowed to recover for 1 month, stored mucosubstances in the intrapulmonary airway were still more than fivefold greater than control values. Thus, in rats, repeated exposure to inhaled endotoxin produced a persistent mucous cell metaplasia only in the intrapulmonary airways.
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