Nuclear inclusions in alveolar epithelium of patients with fibrotic lung disorders.
Ultrastructural study of pulmonary biopsy specimens from patients with fibrotic lung disease disclosed the presence of nuclear inclusions in 1% or less of cuboidal alveolar epithelial cells in 9 of 19 patients, including 6 of 12 patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, 2 of 3 patients with collagen-vascular disease, and 1 of 3 patients with sarcoidosis. Nuclear inclusions were not observed by ultrastructural study in 5 control patients. The inclusions consisted of masses or aggregates of tubules which probably were derived from the inner nuclear membranes. These tubules were smooth-walled, showed branchings and bifurcations, were composed of single trilaminar membranes, usually had a clear content, and ranged from 500 to 1000 A in diameter. They resembled nuclear tubules which occur in other cell types under conditions of rapid growth or specific hormonal stimulation. Statistically significant differences between the groups of patients with and without nuclear inclusions in cuboidal alveolar epithelial cells were not found with respect to smoking history, degree of fibrosis in the lung biopsy specimen, or the degree of pulmonary physiologic impairment. However, the average age of the patients having nuclear inclusions was significantly greater than that of patients not having nuclear inclusions. In addition, the frequency of indentations in the nuclei of cuboidal alveolar epithelial cells was greater in patients with nuclear inclusions than in patients without nuclear inclusions. Highly significant correlations were observed between the presence of nuclear inclusions and the presence of a) anchoring fibrils and hemidesmosomes along the basal surfaces of alveolar epithelial cells and b) multilayering of the alveolar epithelium.