Naturally occurring and N-nitrosomethylurea-induced lung tumors were studied in male F344/NCr rats by sequential histological, electron microscopic, and immunohistochemical methods. Rats were given one injection at 6 weeks of age of N-nitrosomethylurea at a dosage level of 41.2 mg/kg body weight i.v. Groups of rats were sacrificed at 20, 33, and 52 weeks, while some were sacrificed while moribund. Nine lung tumors from aged F344/NCr male rats were also studied. For determining localization of pulmonary antigens, sections of lungs were stained by the avidin-biotin-peroxidase complex immunocytochemical technique using antibodies to rat surfactant apoprotein or rat Clara cell antigen. At 20 weeks, in rats receiving N-nitrosomethylurea, focal alveolar type II cell hyperplasia, adenoma in focal alveolar type II cell hyperplasia, and adenoma were found in 15 (100%), 1 (7%), and 2 (13%) of 15 rats, respectively. At 33 weeks, there were 19 rats (95%) with focal alveolar type II cell hyperplasias, 10 rats (50%) with adenoma in focal alveolar type II cell hyperplasia, and 2 rats (10%) with adenomas in 20 rats. In 53 rats allowed to live up to 52 weeks, there were 10 (19%) adenomas and 3 (6%) carcinomas, as well as 49 (92%) rats with focal hyperplasia and 31 (58%) with adenomas in focal type II cell hyperplasia. Rat surfactant apoprotein was found in the cytoplasm of normal alveolar type II cells and the majority of cells in focal alveolar type II cell hyperplasias, adenomas in hyperplastic lesions, adenomas, and carcinomas. The ultrastructure of these lesions supported immunocytochemical findings with evidence of lamellar bodies. All nine naturally occurring lung tumors studied contained rat surfactant apoprotein. Rat Clara cell antigen was found, however, only focally within one adenoma induced by N-nitrosomethylurea and one adenoma in a hyperplasic lesion, and also focally in three neoplasms which occurred naturally. This study provided morphological, immunohistochemical, and ultrastructural evidence that the vast majority of N-nitrosomethylurea-induced and naturally occurring pulmonary neoplasms of F344 rats are alveolar type II cell adenomas and carcinomas and that a portion of these tumors arise within focal alveolar type II cell hyperplasias.


This study was supported in part by USPHS Contract N01-CO-23910 to Program Resources, Inc.

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