Human lung lavage proteins were fractionated by centrifugation and molecular sieving. An antiserum to the post-albumin fraction of the soluble proteins reacted with a 10 KD protein and this protein was isolated by conventional chromatography. The protein, which has a pI of 4.8, consists of two 5 KD polypeptides and is rich in glutamic acid, leucine, serine, and aspartic acid amino acids. The protein does not bind to concanavalin A, pancreatic elastase, leukocyte elastase, or trypsin, and lacks anti-protease activity. It constitutes about 0.15% of the soluble proteins in lung lavage. Antibodies to the 10 KD protein specifically and exclusively stain Clara cells in human, dog, and rat. Staining of granules of Clara cells was prominent in the distal bronchioles; however, the non-ciliated cells of respiratory bronchioles did not stain for the 10 KD protein. This 10 KD protein appears in fetal lungs at 21 weeks of gestation, and was present in about 10% of the primary pulmonary adenocarcinomas. As a specific marker for Clara cells, this protein could be useful in the study of development, regulation of secretion, and pathobiology of these cells.
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