Rapid alveolar liquid removal by a novel convective mechanism

P. M. Wang, Y. Ashino, H. Ichimura, J. Bhattacharya

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30 Citations (Scopus)


Although alveoli clear liquid by active transport, the presence of surface-active material on the alveolar surface suggests that convective mechanisms for rapid liquid removal may exist. To determine such mechanisms, we held the isolated blood-perfused rat lung at a constant alveolar pressure (PA). Under videomicroscopy, we micropunctured a single alveolus to infuse saline or Ringer solution in ∼10 adjacent alveoli. Infused alveoli were lost from view. However, as the infused liquid cleared, the alveoli reappeared and their diameters could be quantified. Hence the time-dependent determination of alveolar diameter provided a means for quantifying the time to complete liquid removal (Ct) in single alveoli. All determinations were obtained at an PA of 5 cmH2O. Ct, which related inversely to alveolar diameter, averaged 4.5 s in alveoli with the fastest liquid removal. Injections of dye-stained liquid revealed that the liquid flowed from the injected alveoli to adjacent airfilled alveoli. Lung hyperinflations instituted by cycling PA between 5 and 15 cmH2O decreased Ct by 50%. Chelation of intracellular Ca2+ prolonged Ct and abolished the inflationinduced enhancement of liquid removal. We conclude that when liquid is injected in a few alveoli, it rapidly flows to adjacent air-filled alveoli. The removal mechanisms are dependent on alveolar size, inflation, and intracellular Ca2+. We speculate that removal of liquid from the alveolar surface is determined by the curvature and surface-active properties of the air-liquid interface.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L1327-L1334
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number6 25-6
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • Cell calcium
  • Inflation
  • Laplace equation
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Surfactant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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