Adaptation to prolonged ozone (O3) exposure occurs in the tracheal epithelium of rats and is marked by the presence of ciliated cells with uniform short cilia but is not accompanied by shifts in cell populations, altered characteristics of epithelial secretory cell products, increased cell turnover, or elevated tracheal superoxide dismutase activity. The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that adaptation is a result of alterations intrinsic to epithelial cells or to the cells and their matrix, and not due to systemic or neural influences. Rats were preexposed to either filtered air (FA) or 0.96 ppm O3 for 8 hr/night for 60 days, and then their tracheae were removed and exposed to 3 ppm O3 in an explant culture system where behavioral, nasal, exudative, and secretory product influences can be eliminated. After exposure to 3 ppm O3 in vitro, quantitative electron microscopic evaluation demonstrated that the epithelia from the FA preexposure group had significantly more necrotic cells and sloughed cells and fewer ciliated cells than the epithelia from the O3 preexposure group. Thus previous exposure to ozone in vivo induces a change in tracheal epithelium which confers resistance to ozone-induced injury in the explant exposure system.
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