An antibody to a protein produced by Clara cells in adult Syrian golden hamsters has been used to monitor the development and functional differentiation of secretory cells in the conducting airway epithelium of this species. Lungs from fetal and neonatal hamsters at gestational day 11 and at intervals up to and including 3.5 weeks of age (as well as adults) were studied. The earliest time this Clara cell protein could be identified by immunoperoxidase labeling in the fetal conducting airways was at gestational day 15. On this day, labeling was observed in a few secretory cells lining the trachea, in many lining the lobar bronchi, and in virtually all secretory cells lining the bronchioles. Ciliated cells and endocrine cells were not labeled. Granules first appeared within the apical cytoplasm of the secretory cells on gestational day 15 at all airway levels. To identify the exact subcellular location of this protein, an ultrastructural labeling procedure using protein A gold was employed. The gold particles labeled only electron‐dense granules within the secretory cells, indicating that they represent the specific site of this protein. Since secretory cells in the most distal conducting airways began to produce this protein on the same day in development as cells in the larger airways, including the trachea, this expression of functional maturation occurs simultaneously throughout the conducting respiratory tree rather than proceeding sequentially in a cranial to caudal direction. Consequently, secretory cells lining the smaller conducting airways mature more rapidly than those lining the larger airways.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)