Alveolar epithelial surface area-volume relationship in isolated rat lungs

Daniel J. Tschumperlin, Susan S. Margulies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

193 Scopus citations


In vitro studies of the alveolar epithelial response to deformation require knowledge of the in situ mechanical environment of these cells. Because of the presence of tissue folding and crumpling, previous measurements of the alveolar surface area available for gas exchange are not equivalent to the epithelial surface area. To identify epithelial deformations in uniformly inflated lungs representative of the in vivo condition, we studied isolated Sprague-Dawley rat lungs (n = 31) fixed by perfusion with glutaraldehyde on deflation after cycling three times at high lung volume (10-25 cmH2O). The epithelial basement membrane in 45 electron micrographs (x12,000)/rat was traced, digitally scanned, and analyzed. Epithelial basement membrane surface area (EBMSA) was computed from a morphometric relationship. EBMSA was found to increase 5, 16, 12, and 40% relative to EBMSA at 24% total lung capacity at lung volumes of 42, 60, 82, and 100% total lung capacity, respectively. The increases in EBMSA suggest that epithelial cells undergo significant deformations with large inflations and that alveolar basement membrane deformation may contribute to lung recoil at high lung pressures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2026-2033
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1999


  • Cell strain
  • Lung anatomy
  • Lung mechanics
  • Pulmonary
  • Respiratory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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