Role of alveolar macrophages in asbestosis: modulation of neutrophil migration to the lung after acute asbestos exposure.
After intratracheal injection of short chrysotile asbestos fibres in guinea-pigs an intense neutrophil alveolitis was observed within three days. Evaluation by bronchoalveolar lavage of the inflammatory and immune effector cells producing the alveolitis by three days showed an increased proportion of polymorphonuclear leucocytes, which comprised 21% +/- 3% of the total leucocytes compared with 9% +/- 2% for the controls (p less than 0.05), persisting for at least six weeks (after which time the polymorphonuclear leucocytes comprised 28% +/- 2% compared with 7% +/- 1% for the controls: p less than 0.05). One mechanism by which asbestos fibres may cause polymorphonuclear leucocytes to be attracted to the alveolar structures is by induced release of neutrophil chemotactic factor by alveolar macrophages. When exposed in vitro to short or intermediate chrysotile fibres or amosite or crocidolite fibres guinea-pig alveolar macrophages released appreciable amounts of neutrophil chemotactic factor. The release of this chemotactic factor was augmented when the asbestos fibres had been previously exposed to normal serum. The chemotactic factor was lipid soluble, and was similar to the neutrophil chemotactic factor spontaneously released by alveolar macrophages recovered from guinea-pigs exposed in vivo to short chrysotile fibres. These observations suggest that alveolar macrophages may play an important part in the early stages of asbestosis by modulating the migration of neutrophils to the lung.