The effects of hydrocortisone on lung structure in fetal lambs

J. Z. Kendall, J. Lakritz, Charles Plopper, G. E. Richards, G. C.B. Randall, M. Nagamani, A. J. Weir

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27 Scopus citations


The effect of cortisol infusion on fetal lung development was studied in lambs. Changes were compared with those of control groups of saline-infused fetuses of the same age (day 132) and normal late gestation fetuses (142 ± 4.6 days). Cortisol was infused into five fetal lambs at 129 days of gestation at a rate of 17.0 mg/day. Four fetuses were delivered by hysterotomy at the onset of labour-like uterine activity (58 ± 3 h). In cortisol-infused fetuses the concentration of cortisol in fetal plasma and tracheal fluid rose to levels similar to those in normal fetuses during the last week of gestation. Progesterone concentration in maternal plasma declined at about 48 h after the start of treatment. Cortisol-infused lambs showed increases in fixed lung volume, specific lung volume, absolute volume of both parenchyma and nonparenchyma and the proportion of the parenchyma which was potential airspace and a decrease in the proportion of parenchyma. For cortisol-infused lambs Type II cell size and the abundance of lamellar bodies, and the volume fraction of cell occupied by the nucleus were similar to the 142 day group, whereas Golgi apparatus and RER were closer to age matched saline-infused (day 132) controls. Glycogen content was midway between the two control groups. We conclude that infusion of cortisol for about 60 h at physiological levels, beginning at 0.85 of gestation, accelerates many, but not all aspects of pulmonary parenchymal maturation, expressed in terms either of morphogenesis of the gas exchange area or differentiation of Type II alveolar cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-172
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Developmental Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 19 1990
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Physiology


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