Alkalosis and ATP increase surfactant secretion in alveolar type II cells, possibly via non-receptor- and receptor-mediated mechanisms respectively. We compared the effects of these two agonists on phosphatidylinositol (PI) and 1,2-diacylglycerol (DAG) pools and on phosphatidylcholine (PC) hydrolysis in alveolar type II cells. Alkalosis, caused by transfer of cells from 5% (control) to 0% CO2 in air, and ATP increased the secretion of surfactant compared with the controls. The stimulated secretion was inhibited by staurosporine, a protein kinase C inhibitor. DAG and PI contents of control cells were 50 +/- 1.1 (mean +/- S.E.M., n = 8) and 14 +/-0.8 nmol/mg phospholipid (n = 7) respectively. The DAG content increased by approximately 50 nmol (100%) within 5 s of treatment with both alkalosis and ATP, returned to control levels by 1 min, and increased again at 5 min by approximately 20 nmol. The PI content decreased maximally by approximately 6 nmol (40%) at 5 s and returned to control levels by 30 s with both alkalosis and ATP, but was unchanged thereafter. Mass-balance analysis of net changes in DAG and PI pools suggests that additional sources, possibly PC, must also contribute to the DAG increase. ATP or alkalosis also increased the hydrolysis of PC. The labelling of phosphocholine was increased (approximately 60%) at as early as 5 s and remained elevated at subsequent time points, whereas labelling of choline was higher only with ATP at 50 s and later, suggesting activation of phospholipase C by both agonists, and of phospholipase D by only ATP. Our studies demonstrate that ATP and alkalosis stimulate rapid hydrolysis of inositol and choline phospholipids to increase the DAG mass in type II cells, and that phospholipase C-stimulated PC hydrolysis is the major pathway for DAG formation.

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