Phagocytosis of quartz particles by rabbit alveolar macrophages and monocytes and human granulocytes and monocytes was accompanied by stimulation of substrate free reduction of nitroblue tetrazolium to formazan. This reflects activation of an oxygen dependent bactericidal system of phagocytes and total (exogenic and endogenic) generation of active oxygen species. Low fibrogenic and cytotoxic alumina dust tended to increase formazan production by comparison with quartz dust. During phagocytosis of quartz dust by alveolar macrophages and monocytes there was no exogenic generation of superoxide radicals and hydrogen peroxide by these cells. By contrast, incubation of human granulocytes with quartz dust caused a significant increase in exogenic generation of superoxide radicals and hydrogen peroxide. Under such conditions, low fibrogenic alumina dust had no effect on hydrogen peroxide generation and substantially decreased the level of superoxide radical generation by human granulocytes. During incubation of rabbit granulocytes with quartz dust, an increase in the level of superoxide radical generation was also detected. It is considered that the differences between alveolar macrophages and granulocytes in their response to quartz dust are important from a physiological point of view. Alveolar macrophages are permanently present in pulmonary alveolae in large quantities; therefore their uncontrolled generation of superoxide radicals and hydrogen peroxide might immediately cause damage to pulmonary parenchyma. At the same time, destruction products from alveolar macrophages that died during phagocytosis of quartz particles contain a factor attracting granulocytes. Presence of a significant number of granulocytes in bronchopulmonary lavage fluid in cases of silicosis indicates development of a pathological process. This agrees well with the data obtained on exogenic generation of superoxide radicals and hydrogen peroxide by granulocytes, and on stimulation of this process due to phagocytosis of the quartz dust.
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