The reactive species hypochlorous acid (HOCl/OCl-) is a major product of the respiratory burst in activated neutrophils. We studied the effects of HOCl/OCl- on human surfactant and upon surfactants Survanta, KL4 and Exosurf, utilizing a pulsating surfactometer for measuring surface tension. HOCl/OCl- induced a marked dose-dependent decrease in the surface-tension-lowering activity of human surfactant. The surfactant containing surfactant proteins B and C (Survanta) was less sensitive; however, synthetic surfactants with or without peptides were not affected by HOCl/OCl- (KL4, Exosurf). Ascorbic acid and GSH protected human surfactant against inactivation by HOCl/OC1-. We suggest that HOCl/OCl- produced by activated phagocytes in the alveolar compartment of the lung could damage endogenous surfactant and affect the function of exogenously administered natural or other surfactants, especially if ascorbic acid and GSH levels in the lung lining fluids are subnormal, as is known to be the case in some inflammatory lung diseases.

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