Postnatal development of rat lung. Changes in lung lectin, elastin, acetylcholinesterase and other enzymes

J. T. Powell, P. L. Whitney

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72 Scopus citations


The development of rat lung from a primitive gas-exchange organ to the mature respiratory organ is in large part a postnatal phenomenon that has been well characterized by morphological and morphometric methods. The alveolarization of the lung is achieved during the first 3 weeks of life. Cholinergic innervation of rat lung also appears postnatally. We have monitored the presence or activity of several proteins during postnatal rat lung development. Newborn-rat lung contains negligible amounts of acetylcholinesterase, but the specific activity of acetylcholinesterase reaches adult values by postnatal day 10-11. Neonatal-rat lung does not contain significant amounts of β-galactoside-binding protein. The activity of this endogenous lung lectin was apparent at about day 6, was maximal between days 10 and 13 before declining 8-10-fold to reach adult values. Elastin has been implicated from morphological evidence as critical to lung restructuring. We have quantified the amount of desmosine and isodesmosine per g wet wt. of lung. The concentration of elastin, by this criterion, was low and stationary until postnatal day 7; a dramatic increase in elastin concentration occurred between days 10 and 20, when adult values were reached. The peak of lung-lectin was coincident with the maturation of acetylcholinesterase and the beginning of rapid elastin cross-linking. The specific activities of angiotensin-converting enzyme, carbonic anhydrase, choline kinase and glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase were also monitored.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalBiochemical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1980

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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