The lungs have a high polyamine transport capability, and the type II pneumocyte has recently been identified as a major site of putrescine uptake and localization (N. A. Saunders, P. J. Rigby, K. F. Ilett, and R. F. Minchin. Lab. Invest. 59: 380-386, 1988). However, recent evidence suggests that multiple polyamine transport systems exist. In the present study, localization of spermidine uptake in rabbit lung was investigated. Although [14C]spermidine was rapidly accumulated by lung slices, it was not significantly metabolized, and no efflux of the accumulated polyamine was apparent. Autoradiographs prepared after [3H]spermidine transport revealed a localization of uptake activity to cells identified by electron microscopy as type II pneumocytes. Spermidine uptake occurred in all type II cells examined and thus appeared to be a characteristic function of this cell type. In contrast, spermidine uptake was virtually absent in the major airways and blood vessels, whereas moderate uptake was associated with pulmonary alveolar macrophages and alveolar tissue. Subsequent purification and culture of type II pneumocytes showed these cells to have significant polyamine uptake activity. In addition, spermidine uptake activity was positively correlated with the proportion of type II cells present at the various stages of their purification. In other studies, cultured pulmonary alveolar macrophages possessed similar uptake activity to that of cultured type II cells. Combined, these data suggest that both type II cells and pulmonary alveolar macrophages may represent major sites of spermidine uptake in vivo. We also suggest that the transport of polyamines by type II cells may reflect a critical role for polyamines in a characteristic function of this cell type.
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