A sex difference characterized by a female advantage in the maturation of the fetal pulmonary surfactant system is well documented. Because the surfactant system and the antioxidant enzyme system of the fetal lung have chronologically similar developmental patterns and share some of the same hormonal regulators, such as glucocorticoids, we questioned whether a sex difference would be present in antioxidant enzyme maturation as it is in surfactant system maturation. We studied fetal rabbits at days 26 and 28 of a 31-day gestational period. Fetal sex was identified histologically. Fetal lung lavage was performed and lavage fluid assayed for phosphatidylcholine, disaturated phosphatidylcholine, and sphingomyelin. Lung tissue from separate fetuses was assayed for disaturated phosphatidylcholine content and total phospholipid content and for the activities of three antioxidant enzymes - superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase. No differences were present in antioxidant enzyme maturation between male and female rabbits at the gestational days studied. A female advantage was observed in the lung lavage disaturated phosphatidylcholine/sphingomyelin ratio (at 26 days: female 1.38 ± 0.42, male 0.99 ± 0.26; and at 28 days: female 3.29 ± 0.53; male 2.26 ± 0.35, p < 0.05). A female advantage in surfactant development was not reflected in lung tissue disaturated phosphatidylcholine or total phospholipid. We conclude that, unlike the development of the surfactant system, the development of the antioxidant enzyme system in the fetal rabbit lung does not demonstrate a sex difference.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health