The development of alveolar septa in fetal sheep lung. An ultrastructural and immunohistochemical study.
The morphogenesis of pulmonary alveolar septa in the sheep was studied by light microscopy, transmission electron microscopy and light microscopic immunohistochemistry for the detection of elastin. The primordia of alveolar septa developed in the glandular stage in areas subjacent to the epithelium, and formed alveolar septa by protruding into the glandular lumina. In their earliest stage, the primordia consisted of groups of fibroblasts, which were associated with elastic fibers and unit collagen fibrils and were surrounded by epithelial basement membrane and by more immature fibroblasts. The fibroblasts in the primordia subsequently became myofibroblasts or smooth muscle cells. In the alveolar zone of the glands, elastic fibers were exclusively found in the primordia of alveolar septa in early developing lung. In early developing lung, wavy, thickened epithelial basement membranes were found in the regions of the glands, which eventually underwent considerable expansion of their surface areas, especially in the primordia of alveolar septa and the bifurcations in the alveolar zones. Areas of fusion of the basement membranes of capillary endothelial cells and epithelial cells in the alveolar zone were found after the formation of the primordia of alveolar septa was accomplished. These areas of fusion were not found in the primordia themselves, but in regions between the primordia. Epithelial cell flattening and differentiation occurred after the formation of the primordia of alveolar septa, and flattening was first observed in the areas of the primordia and the bifurcations of the alveolar zones.