Temporal-spatial distribution of SP-B and SP-C proteins and mRNAs in developing respiratory epithelium of human lung

A. Khoor, M. T. Stahlman, M. E. Gray, J. A. Whitsett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

119 Scopus citations


We determined the temporal and spatial distribution of surfactant protein B (pro-SP-B) and C (pro-SP-C) mRNAs and proteins by immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization in fetal, neonatal, and adult human lung. Pro-SP-B and SP-B mRNA were detected in bronchi and bronchioles by 15 weeks' gestation. After 25 weeks, pro-SP-B, active SP-B peptide, and SP-B mRNA were co- localized in bronchiolo-alveolar portal cells and in Type II epithelial cells. In adult lung, pro-SP-B and SP-B mRNA were detected primarily in non- ciliated bronchiolar epithelial cells and in Type II cells in the alveolus. Pro-SP-C and SP-C mRNA were detected in cells lining terminal airways from 15 weeks' gestation and thereafter. After 25 weeks, SP-C mRNA and precursor protein were detected in epithelial cells of the bronchiolo-alveolar portals and in Type II cells, where expression increased with advancing gestational age. Distinct cellular patterns of staining for pro-SP-B compared with SP-B active peptide support the concept that its proteolytic processing or cellular routing may be influenced by cell type and/or cell differentiation. SP-B and SP-C are expressed primarily in distal conducting and terminal airway epithelium of human fetal lung well in advance of surfactant lipid synthesis or physiologic requirements to produce pulmonary surfactant at the time of birth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1187-1199
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Histochemistry and Cytochemistry
Issue number9
StatePublished - Jan 1 1994


  • Human lung development
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In situ hybridization
  • Surfactant-associated proteins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Histology

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