A rabbit model for the diabetic pregnancy was used to investigate the etiology of delayed pulmonary maturation observed in infants of diabetic mothers. Pregnant rabbit does were made glucose intolerant and insulinopenic by injection of alloxan, a pancreatic beta-cell cytotoxin. At 28 d (term approximately 31 d) fetuses of these animals were hyperglycemic, but were not hyperinsulinemic and did not demonstrate tissue overgrowth. Fetal pulmonary maturity was assessed by measurement of pressure-volume relationships on the fetal lungs. Fetuses of glucose-intolerant does demonstrated less retention of air on deflation. Phospholipid components of pulmonary surfactant were assayed on fluid obtained from lavage of the fetal lungs. Levels of disaturated phosphatidylcholine (per-cent total-lavage phospholipids) were diminished in fetuses of glucose-intolerant does compared to control fetuses (20.5 +/- 4.2 vs. 38.0 +/ 4.3%; P less than 0.01). Lecithin/sphingomyelin ratios were similar in both groups and phosphatidylglycerol was not detected in either group. There was a direct correlation between the percentage of alveolar disaturated phosphatidylcholine and retention of air on lung deflation. These findings suggest that in this model pulmonary instability was a result of diminished alveolar disaturated phosphatidylcholine, and this diminution did not result from fetal hyperinsulinemia.
C L Bose, D N Manne, A J D'Ercole, E E Lawson