Pulmonary neuroendocrine cells in pediatric lung disease: Alterations in airway structure in infants with bronchopulmonary dysplasia

Dana E. Johnson, W. Robert Anderson, Barbara A. Burke

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Despite four decades of investigation, the function of pulmonary neuroendocrine cells (NEC) remains unclear. Since NEC secretory products may influence airway growth or differentiation or alter airway smooth muscle tone, increased numbers of NEC seen in bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) may be partially responsible for the genesis of the structural and pathophysiological alterations seen in this disease state. Changes in airway structure were studied in six infants dying with BPD and six conceptional age‐matched control infants dying of noncardiopulmonary disease. Changes in bombesin‐, calcitonin‐, and serotonin‐immunoreactive NEC were quantified in lung specimens from three infants who died at 2 months of age with severe BPD and three conceptional age‐matched controls. There were no differences in either bronchiolar or bronchial airway epithelial areas, but significant increases in bronchiolar (1.8‐fold) (P < 0.001) and especially bronchial smooth muscle (2.5‐fold) (P < 0.001) were documented in infants with BPD. Few bombesin‐, calcitonin‐, and serotonin‐immunoreactive cells were identified in cartilaginous airways; however, there was a clear increase in the total number of bronchiolar immunoreactive cells in infants with severe BPD (28.5 ± 11.2 cells/mm airway epithelium) compared to control infants (4.5 ± 4.9) (P < 0.05). Our results confirm that airway wall composition does change in BPD, but there is either no or an inverse correlation between NEC number and airway epithelial and smooth muscle areas and cell numbers. The role of NEC secretory products in airway smooth muscle growth and function requires further investigation. © 1993 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-121
Number of pages7
JournalThe Anatomical Record
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1993


  • Bronchial structure
  • Pediatric lung disease
  • Pulmonary Neuroendocrine cells
  • Pulmonary structure


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