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Equivalent Pore Estimate For The Alveolar-airway Barrier In Isolated Dog Lung

R. L. Conhaim, A. Eaton, N. C. Staub, T. D. Heath

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In high-pressure pulmonary edema, lung interstitial and air space edema liquids have equal protein concentrations (Am. J. Physiol. 231: 1466, 1976). This suggests that the alveolar-airway barrier separating the air and interstitial spaces is relatively unrestrictive, even without apparent epithelial injury. To estimate the equivalent pore population of the alveolar-airway barrier we inflated each of 18 isolated dog lung lobes for 1 h with a solution of colored tracer of uniform radius. Tracer radii ranged from 1.3 to 405 nm. After freezing the lobes in liquid N2, we measured interstitial tracer concentrations in frozen perivascular cuffs or in samples thawed after dissection from frozen cuffs. Relative to the concentrations instilled, interstitial concentrations ranged from 0.34 for the smallest particles (1.3 and 3.5 nm radius) to zero for particles with radii of 405 nm. From the results we designed a pore model of the alveolar-airway barrier to reproduce the concentrations we measured. No single-pore model could be obtained, although a three-pore model fit the data well. The model results predict that pores with radii of 1, 40, and 400 nm would account for 68, 30, and 2% of total liquid flux, respectively. The majority of liquid flux (68%) would occur through passageways smaller than the smallest tracer we used (1.3 nm radius). We believe the alveolar-airway barrier consists not only of tight intercellular junctions that allow passage of only water and electrolytes but also of a smaller number of large leaks that allow passage of particles up to nearly 400 nm in radius.