In the lungs of healthy rats, humans, lambs, and monkeys, about 50% of the alveolar interstitial cells—resembling fibroblasts—contain bundles of fibrils measuring 30–80 Å in diameter. Immunofluorescence studies on frozen sections of rat lung demonstrate that many interstitial cells bind sera containing antiactin antibodies. On account of these two sets of findings and our additional in vitro studies suggesting alveolar tissue contraction due to hypoxia or epinephrine, we postulate that the alveolar septa contain contractile cells different from that of smooth muscle. For these cells we propose the name of "contractile interstitial cells." Such cells lie within the thick portion of the air-blood barrier and around the pre- or postcapillary vessels. Hence it is possible that they play a role in the autoregulation of ventilation/perfusion (V/Q) ratio, particularly in hypoxic pulmonary hypertension. These findings, demonstrating a contractile system other than bronchial and arterial smooth muscle, suggest that the alveolus should no more be conceived as a passive "organ."

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