Dexamethasone stimulation of fetal rat lung antioxidant enzyme activity in parallel with surfactant stimulation

L. Frank, P. L. Lewis, I. R.S. Sosenko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

135 Scopus citations


It has recently been determined that fetal lung antioxidant enzyme activity markedly increases late in gestation. A test was made of whether this normal late-in-gestation change in O2-protective enzymes would be responsive to the maturing effect of hormonal (glucocorticoid) treatment. Pregnant rats received 0.2 mg/kg of dexamethasone (or saline) at 48 and 24 hours prior to delivery of their fetuses on gestational days 19, 20, 21, and 22 (newborn). Lung disaturated phosphatidylcholine showed an expected response to prenatal dexamethasone exposure with significant elevations of surfactant lipid at gestational days 20 and 21. A similar effect of prenatal dexamethasone treatment on the lung antioxidant defensive system was found. Superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase - enzymes protective against hyperoxia-induced lung injury - showed an accelerated pattern of maturation with significant increases in the dexamethasone-treated fetal lungs compared with control fetal lung enzyme levels at gestational days 20 and 21. The results suggest that prenatal dexamethasone treatment may have dual benefits when used in impending premature deliveries - that is, it may stimulate maturation of both the surfactant system and also the antioxidant enzyme system, and this maturation can help protect the premature newborn's lungs from the toxic complications of hyperoxic therapy that may be required because of immaturity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)569-574
Number of pages6
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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