Control of pulmonary surfactant secretion: An evolutionary perspective

Philip G. Wood, Olga V. Lopatko, Sandra Orgeig, J. M P Joss, Allan W. Smits, Christopher B. Daniels*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    24 Citations (Scopus)


    Pulmonary surfactant, a mixture consisting of phospholipids (PL) and proteins, is secreted by type II cells in the lungs of all air-breathing vertebrates. Virtually nothing is known about the factors that control the secretion of pulmonary surfactant in nonmammalian vertebrates. With the use of type II cell cultures from Australian lungfish, North American bullfrogs, and fat-tailed dunnarts, we describe the autonomic regulation of surfactant secretion among the vertebrates. ACh, but not epinephrine (Epi), stimulated total PL and disaturated PL (DSP) secretion from type II cells isolated from Australian lungfish. Both Epi and ACh stimulated PL and DSP secretion from type II cells of bullfrogs and fat-tailed dunnarts. Neither Epi nor ACh affected the secretion of cholesterol from type II cell cultures of bullfrogs or dunnarts. Pulmonary surfactant secretion may be predominantly controlled by the autonomic nervous system in nonmammalian vertebrates. The parasympathetic nervous system may predominate at lower body temperatures, stimulating surfactant secretion without elevating metabolic rate. Adrenergic influences on the surfactant system may have developed subsequent to the radiation of the tetrapods. Furthermore, ventilatory influences on the surfactant system may have arisen at the time of the evolution of the mammalian bronchoalveolar lung. Further studies using other carefully chosen species from each of the vertebrate groups are required to confirm this hypothesis.

    Original languageEnglish
    JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
    Issue number3 47-3
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2000


    • Cholesterol
    • Frog
    • Lungfish
    • Marsupial
    • Parasympathetic nervous system
    • Phospholipids
    • Sympathetic nervous system


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