1996 Volume 42 Issue 3 Pages 209-218
Surfactant protein A (SP-A) is a major apo-protein of pulmonary surfactant, which lines the alveolar walls, lowering the surface tension to prevent lung collapse. Pregnant rats were divided into two groups which received a diet with either 5% or 20% protein from gestational day 9. By a sensitive immunoassay, SP-A levels in the fetal lungs and the amniotic fluid showed a dramatic increase with advancing gestation after the initial appearance on gestational day 18 in both diet groups. Significantly lower levels of SP-A in pregnant rats fed 5 % protein diet than those in pregnant rats fed 20% protein diet were observed in the fetal lungs on gestational day 21 and in the amniotic fluid on gestational days 20 and 21. The profiles of increased SP-A levels in the amniotic fluid reflected those in the fetal lungs during gestation. Immunohistochemical examination with anti-rat SP-A antibody at 21 days of gestation showed that the immunoreactive staining of bronchiolar epithelial Clara cells and alveolar type II cells were weaker in the fetal lung sections from pregnant rats fed 5% protein diet than in those from pregnant rats fed 20% protein diet. It is concluded that protein malnutrition in pregnant rats affects the biosynthesis of SP-A in the fetal lungs, which may have important consequences for prematurity and decreased respiratory functions in the neonatal lungs at birth.