Three surface-active fractions which differ in their morphology have been isolated from rat lung homogenates by ultracentrifugation in a discontinuous sucrose density gradient. In order of increasing density, the fractions consisted, as shown by electron microscopy, primarily of common myelin figures, lamellar bodies, and tubular myelin figures. The lipid of all three fractions contained approximately 94% polar lipids and 2% cholesterol. In the case of the common myelin figures and the lamellar bodies, the polar lipids consisted of 73% phosphatidylcholines, 9% phosphatidylserines and inositols, and 8% phosphatidylethanolamines. In the case of the tubular myelin figures, the respective percentages were 58, 19, and 5. Over 90% of the fatty acids of the lecithins of all three fractions were saturated. Electrophoresis of the proteins of the fractions in sodium dodecyl sulfate or Triton X-100 revealed that the lamellar bodies and the tubular myelin figures differed in the mobilities of their proteins. The common myelin figures, however, contained proteins from both of the other fractions. These data indicate that, whereas the lipids of the extracellular, alveolar surfactant(s) originate in the lamellar bodies, the proteins arise from another source. It is further postulated that the tubular myelin figures represent a liquid crystalline state of the alveolar surface-active lipoproteins.

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