Byssinosis, a lung disease that can affect cotton mill workers, may be caused in part by lipopolysaccharides (LPS) from Gram negative bacteria. In vitro, LPS complexes with sheep lung surfactant (SLS). To determine whether LPS in extracts of cotton dust alters the biophysical characteristics of lung surfactant, aqueous extracts (1.0% w:v) of sterile surgical cotton (SSC) and a bulk raw cotton dust (1182DB) were prepared. Aliquots of the soluble extracts were incubated with SLS and studied by sucrose gradient centrifugation, surface tension analysis, and high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC). The chromatography was employed to analyse for 3-hydroxymyristate (3-HM), a fatty acid indicating LPS. Also, purified Enterobacter agglomerans LPS and 3-HM as controls and as mixtures with SLS, were studied by HPLC. Sucrose gradient centrifugation showed that SLS-SSC, SLS-1182DB, and the SLS control had similar densities that differed from the remaining controls. The SLS-1182DB exhibited a floccule absent in the other samples. Surface tension values of SLS-SSC and SLS-1182DB differed significantly from all controls but only slightly from one another. 3-Hydroxymyristate was detected by HPLC in the 3-HM control, EA-LPS, SLS-EA-LPS, and SLS-1182DB, but not in SLS-SSC or the remaining controls. Apparently, 3-HM was below the HPLC detection range in SSC. The data indicate that LPS in the 1182DB, SSC and EA-LPS samples complexed with SLS. Floccule development in SLS-1182DB but not in SLS-EA-LPS suggests a further component(s) present in the bulk raw cotton dust, as well as LPS, which complexes with SLS. The data suggest that biophysical alterations to lung surfactant may play a part in the pathogenesis of byssinosis.
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