Increased palmitoyl-myristoyl-phosphatidylcholine in neonatal rat surfactant is lung specific and correlates with oral myristic acid supply

Wolfgang Bernhard*, Marco Raith, Christopher J. Pynn, Christian Gille, Guido Stichtenoth, Dieter Stoll, Erwin Schleicher, Christian F. Poets

*Corresponding author for this work
7 Citations (Scopus)


Surfactant predominantly comprises phosphatidylcholine (PC) species, together with phosphatidylglycerols, phosphatidylinositols, neutral lipids, and surfactant proteins-A to -D. Together, dipalmitoyl-PC (PC16:0/16:0), palmitoyl-myristoyl-PC (PC16:0/14:0), and palmitoylpalmitoleoyl- PC (PC16:0/16:1) make up 75-80% of mammalian surfactant PC, the proportions of which vary during development and in chronic lung diseases. PC16:0/14:0, which exerts specific effects on macrophage differentiation in vitro, increases in surfactant during alveolarization (at the expense of PC16:0/16:0), a prenatal event in humans but postnatal in rats. The mechanisms responsible and the significance of this reversible increase are, however, not understood. We hypothesized that, in rats, myristic acid (C14:0) enriched milk is key to lung-specific PC16:0/14:0 increases in surfactant. We found that surfactant PC16:0/14:0 in suckling rats correlates with C14:0 concentration in plasma chylomicrons and lung tissue triglycerides, and that PC16:0/14:0 fractions reflect exogenous C14:0 supply. Significantly, C14:0 was increased neither in plasma PC, nor in liver triglycerides, free fatty acids, or PC. Lauric acid was also abundant in triglycerides, but was not incorporated into surfactant PC. Comparing a C14:0-rich milk diet with a C14:0-poor carbohydrate diet revealed increased C14:0 and decreased C16:0 in plasma and lung triglycerides, respectively. PC16:0/14:0 enrichment at the expense of PC16: 0/16:0 did not impair surfactant surface tension function. However, the PC profile of the alveolar macrophages from the milk-fed animals changed from PC16:0/16:0 rich to PC16:0/14:0 rich. This was accompanied by reduced reactive oxygen species production. We propose that nutritional supply with C14:0 and its lung-specific enrichment may contribute to decreased reactive oxygen species production during alveolarization.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)449-457
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 08.2011

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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