Toxic, partially reduced metabolites of oxygen (toxic oxygen radicals) are increasingly implicated in acute leukocyte-mediated tissue injury. To further probe the roles of oxygen radicals in acute lung edema, I studied the effects of a recently described and very potent oxygen radical scavenger, dimethylthiourea (DMTU) (Fox, R. B., R. N. Harada, R. M. Tate, and J. E. Repine, 1983, J. Appl. Physiol., 55:1456-1459) on polymorphonuclear leukocyte (PMN) oxidant function and on two types of lung injury mediated by oxygen radicals and PMN. DMTU (10 mM) blocked 79% of hydroxyl radical (OH) production by PMN in vitro without interfering with other PMN functions, such as O-2 production, myeloperoxidase activity, chemotaxis, degranulation, or aggregation. When isolated rat lung preparations were perfused with PMN activated to produce OH, lung weights were increased from 2.3 +/- 0.2 to 11.2 +/- 0.8 g. DMTU (10 mM) prevented 70% of these increases (lung weights, 5.0 +/- 1.1 g, P less than 0.005). Finally, when intact rats were exposed to 100% O2 for 66 h, lung weight:body weight ratios were increased from 5.78 +/- 0.33 to 8.87 +/- 0.16 g. DMTU (500 mg/kg) prevented 83% of this hyperoxia-induced lung edema in vivo (lung:body weight ratios, 6.05 +/- 0.21, P less than 0.001). Pharmacokinetic studies showed that DMTU diffused effectively into lung interstitial fluids and had a relatively long half-life (25-35 h) in the circulation. Because a variety of oxygen radicals, such as superoxide (O-2), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), or OH are produced by PMN, there is usually some uncertainty about which one is responsible for injury. However, in these studies, DMTU did not scavenge O-2 and scavenged H2O2 only very slowly while scavenging OH very effectively. Therefore, DMTU may be useful in the investigation of the roles of oxygen radicals, especially OH, in acute granulocyte-mediated tissue injury.
R B Fox