Hyperoxia and paraquat ingestion are two clinical examples of lung injury thought to be mediated by oxidant mechanisms. An in vitro cytotoxicity assay using freshly explanted 51Cr-labeled lung tissue as the target was used to quantify the ability of hyperoxia and paraquat to directly injure lung parenchymal cells in an environment where indirect mechanisms such as recruitment of inflammatory cells were not possible. There are clear species differences in the susceptibility of lung parenchyma to direct injury by hyperoxia (95% O2) and paraquat (10 μM-10 mM) for 18 hr at 37⇆C, with human and rat lung being more sensitive than rabbit lung. Oxygen radical inhibitors, particularly catalase (1,100 U/ml) and α-tocopherol (10 μg/ml), reduced hyperoxia and paraquat-induced lung injury, although their ability to do so depended on the oxidant and the species. The simultaneous use of hyperoxia and paraquat accelerated the in vitro lung parenchymal cell injury in each species tested. These studies demonstrate that both oxygen and paraquat can directly injure the cells of the lower respiratory tract without enlisting the aid of additional blood-derived inflammatory cells. In addition, the 51Cr-labeled lung explant assay used for these studies allowed for the quantitative assessment of direct lung cell injury and thus may prove useful as an in vitro model by which to investigate lung injury of other etiologies.
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