Intracellular and extracellular compartments of phospholipids in the lungs of rats were examined 28 days after intratracheal injection of silica (200 mg/kg). All compartments containing phospholipids were elevated, but the largest increases were seen in the intracellular and extracellular pulmonary surfactant. Intracellular pulmonary surfactant increased 123-fold from 1.18 +/- 0.65 to 144.9 +/- 53.8 and the extracellular surfactant increased 22-fold from 1.17 +/- 0.04 to 25.1 +/- 7.1 mg per pair of rat lungs respectively. The phospholipid composition of intracellular and extracellular surfactant did not change in response to silica, except for an almost 2-fold increase in the percentage of total phosphatidylinositol in both compartments. The phospholipid content of the lungs increased from 24.9 +/- 4.6 to 268.6 +/- 20.8 mg, with the intracellular and extracellular surfactant accounting for 59.1 and 24.6% of this total increase respectively. These data demonstrate that the major increases in the phospholipid content of the lungs induced by silica is associated with the pulmonary-surfactant system.

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