Isolated alveolar epithelial type II cells were exposed to paraquat and to hyperoxia by gas diffusion through the thin Teflon bottom of culture dishes. After exposure, type II cells were further incubated in the presence of labelled substrates to assess their capacity to synthesize lipids. Hyperoxia alone (90% O2; 5 h) had minor effects on lipid metabolism in the type II cells. At low paraquat concentrations (5 and 10 microM), hyperoxia enhanced the paraquat-induced decrease of [Me-14C]choline incorporation into phosphatidylcholines. The incorporation rates of [Me-14C]choline, [1-14C]palmitate, [1-14C]glucose and [1,3-3H]glycerol into various phospholipid classes and neutral lipids were decreased by paraquat, depending on the concentration and duration of the exposure. The incorporation of [1-14C]acetate into phosphatidylcholines, phosphatidylglycerols and neutral lipids appeared to be very sensitive to inactivation by paraquat. At 5 microM-paraquat the rate of [1-14C]acetate incorporation was decreased to 50% of the control values. The rate of [1-14C]palmitate incorporation into lipids was much less sensitive; it even increased at low paraquat concentrations. At 10 microM-paraquat both NADPH and ATP were significantly decreased. It is concluded that lipid synthesis in isolated alveolar type II cells is extremely sensitive to paraquat. At low concentrations of this herbicide, lipid synthesis, and particularly fatty acid synthesis, is decreased. The effects on lipid metabolism may be partly related to altered NADPH and ATP concentrations.

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