Determination of low-molecular-mass antioxidant concentrations in human respiratory tract lining fluids

Albert Van Der Vliet, Charles A. O'Neill, Carroll E Cross, John M. Koostra, William G. Volz, Barry Halliwell, Samuel Louie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

193 Scopus citations


Antioxidants present within lung epithelial lining fluids (ELFs) constitute an initial line of defense against inhaled environmental oxidants such as ozone, nitrogen oxides, and tobacco smoke, but the antioxidant composition of human ELFs is still incompletely characterized. We analyzed ELF concentrations of the low-molecular-mass antioxidants ascorbate, urate, glutathione (GSH), and α-tocopherol by obtaining bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) and nasal lavage fluids from healthy nonsmoking volunteers and compared two different BAL procedures. ELF dilution by the lavage procedures was estimated by measurement of urea in recovered BAL fluids in comparison with those in blood plasma from the same subjects. The results indicated that a recently developed single-cycle BAL procedure minimizes influx of non-ELF urea into the instilled fluid and thus allows for a more accurate determination of ELF antioxidant concentrations. Using this procedure, we determined that bronchoalveolar ELF contains 40 ± 18 (SD) μM ascorbate, 207 ± 167 μM urate, 109 ± 64 μM GSH, and 0.7 x 0.3 μM α-tocopherol (n = 12 subjects). Similar analysis of nasal lavage fluid yielded nasal ELF levels of 28 ± 19 μM ascorbate and 225 ± 105 μM urate (n = 12 subjects), whereas GSH was undetectable (<0.5 μM). Our results demonstrate that ascorbate and urate are major low-molecular-mass ELF antioxidants in both the upper and lower respiratory tract, whereas GSH is present at significant concentrations only in bronchoalveolar ELF.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number2 20-2
StatePublished - Feb 1999


  • α-tocopherol
  • Ascotbate
  • Bronchoalveolar lavage
  • Epithelial lining fluid
  • Glutathione
  • Nasal lavage
  • Urate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cell Biology
  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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