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Pulmonary acini exhibit complex changes during postnatal rat lung development

By David Haberthuer, Eveline Yao, Sébastien F Barré, Tiziana P. Cremona, Stefan A. Tschanz, Johannes C. Schittny

Posted 01 Oct 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/786681

Pulmonary acini represent the functional gas-exchanging units of the lung. Due to technical limitations, individual acini cannot be identified on microscopic lung sections. To overcome these limitations, we imaged the right lower lobes of instillation-fixed rat lungs from postnatal days P4, P10, P21, and P60 at the TOMCAT beamline of the Swiss Light Source synchrotron facility at a voxel size of 1.48 m. Individual acini were segmented from the three-dimensional data by closing the airways at the transition from conducting to gas exchanging airways. For a subset of acini (N=268), we followed the acinar development by stereologically assessing their volume and their number of alveoli. We found that the mean volume of the acini increases 23 times during the observed timeframe. The coefficients of variation dropped from 1.26 to 0.49 and the difference between the mean volumes of the fraction of the 20% smallest to the 20% largest acini decreased from a factor of 27.26 (day 4) to a factor of 4.07 (day 60), ie shows a smaller dispersion at later time points. The acinar volumes show a very large variation early in lung development and homogenize during maturation of the lung by reducing their size distribution by a factor of 7 until adulthood. The homogenization of the acinar sizes hints at an optimization of the gas-exchange region in the lungs of adult animals and that acini of different size are not evenly distributed in the lungs. This likely leads to more homogeneous ventilation at later stages in lung development.

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