Increases in Clara cell abundance or cellular expression of Clara cell secretory protein (CCSP) may cause increased tolerance of the lung to acute oxidant injury by repeated exposure to ozone (O3). This study defines how disruption of the gene for CCSP synthesis affects the susceptibility of tracheobronchial epithelium to acute oxidant injury. Mice homozygous for a null allele of the CCSP gene (CCSP-/-) and wild type (CCSP+/+) littermates were exposed to ozone (0.2 ppm, 8 h; 1 ppm, 8 h) or filtered air. Injury was evaluated by light and scanning electron microscopy, and the abundance of necrotic, ciliated, and nonciliated cells was estimated by morphometry. Proximal and midlevel intrapulmonary airways and terminal bronchioles were evaluated. There was no difference in airway epithelial composition between CCSP+/+ and CCSP-/- mice exposed to filtered air, and exposure to 0.2 ppm ozone caused little injury to the epithelium of both CCSP+/+ and CCSP-/- mice. After exposure to 1.0 ppm ozone, CCSP-/- mice suffered from a greater degree of epithelial injury throughout the airways compared to CCSP+/+ mice. CCSP-/- mice had both ciliated and nonciliated cell injury. Furthermore, lack of CCSP was associated with a shift in airway injury to include proximal airway generations. Therefore, we conclude that CCSP modulates the susceptibility of the epithelium to oxidant-induced injury. Whether this is due to the presence of CCSP on the acellular lining layer surface and/or its intracellular distribution in the secretory cell population needs to be defined.
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