During early postnatal ontogeny in most mammals, the lung is structurally and functionally immature. In some species with relatively altricial lung morphology, there is evidence of a coupling between functional maturity of the pulmonary cellular immune system and alveolar maturation. Herein, we examine changes in alveolar macrophage (AM) number and function occurring during alveolarization in a more precocial species, the pig, to determine if heightened oxidative metabolism and phagocytic ability is similarly delayed until completion of lung morphogenesis. We assessed cell differential in lavage fluid and evaluated two main functional parameters of AM phagocytic response, the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), and particle internalization. AM functional maturation occurred mainly during the first postnatal week: the proportion of AMs, ROS generation, and phagocytosis all increased significantly. These results suggest maturational improvement of the impaired AM-based pulmonary immune system of the neonate piglet occurs during the postnatal period of rapid alveolarization. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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