Does lung development differ in male and female fetuses?

Noreen Ishak, Foula Sozo, Richard Harding, Robert M De Matteo

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14 Citations (Scopus)


Preterm male infants have a higher incidence of morbidity and mortality due to respiratory insufficiency than females of the same gestational age. This male disadvantage could be due to differences in lung architecture; however, few studies have compared lung architecture in male and female fetuses during late gestation. Our principal objectives were to compare the morphology of the fetal lung and the maturity of the surfactant system in preterm male and female fetuses. Lungs from male (n = 9) and female (n = 11) fetal sheep were collected at 0.9 of term (131 days of the 145-day gestation) for morphological and molecular analyses. In separate groups, tracheal liquid was obtained from male (n = 9) and female (n = 9) fetuses at 0.9 of term for determination of surfactant phospholipid composition. We found no sex-related differences in body weight, lung weight, right lung volume, lung tissue and airspace fractions, mean linear intercept, septal crest density, septal thickness, the proportion of proliferating and apoptotic cells, and the percentages of collagen or elastin. The gene expression of surfactant protein -A, -B, -C, and -D and tropoelastin was similar between sexes. There were no differences in the proportion of the major phospholipid classes in the tracheal liquid between sexes; however there was a significantly higher percentage of the phospholipid species phosphatidylinositol 38:5 in males. The greater morbidity and mortality in preterm male lambs do not appear to be related to differences in lung structure or surfactant phospholipid synthesis before birth, but may relate to physiological adaptation to air-breathing at birth.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30 - 39
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Lung Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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