Immunogold localization of SP-A in lungs of infants dying from respiratory distress syndrome

D. E. DeMello, S. Heyman, D. S. Phelps, J. Floros

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Prematurely born infants can develop the neonatal respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) because of a deficiency of pulmonary surfactant. This lipoprotein complex synthesized by type II pneumocytes has different ultrastructural forms-intra- and extracellular lamellar bodies, which within the alveoli are transformed into tubular myelin, and this in turn gives rise to the surface monolayer, the functionally active form of surfactant. We have previously shown that at autopsy RDS lungs lack tubular myelin and have decreased immunoreactivity for antisera to surfactant protein A (SP-A), an important component of tubular myelin. Therefore, we proposed a role for SP- A in the conversion of lamellar bodies to tubular myelin and in the pathogenesis of RDS. To explore this possibility further, we compared in 14 RDS and 14 control lungs the distribution of SP-A in ultrathin sections, using affinity-purified rabbit anti-human-SP-A IgG and goat anti-rabbit IgG- conjugated with 10 nm colloidal gold particles. In controls, gold label was present in lamellar bodies, endoplasmic reticulum, on the cytoplasmic membrane of type II cells, and on lamellar bodies and tubular myelin either within alveoli or macrophages. In RDS lungs, reduced label was present in the same intracellular compartments and organelles, except in tubular myelin, which is absent. It is postulated that if SP-A is indeed necessary for the conversion of lamellar bodies to tubular myelin, in RDS either there is a deficiency of adequate amounts of functional SP-A or some other important component of surfactant is missing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1631-1640
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Pathology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1993

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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