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Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) is the key enzyme of the pentose phosphate pathway in carbohydrate metabolism, and it plays an important role in cell proliferation and antioxidant regulation within cells in various organs. Although marked cell proliferation and oxidant/antioxidant metabolism occur in lung alveolar epithelial cells, definite data has been lacking as to whether cytochemically detectable G6PD is present in alveolar epithelial cells. The distribution pattern of G6PD within these cells, if it is present, is also unknown. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the subcellular localization of G6PD in alveolar cells in the rat lung using a newly- developed enzyme-cytochemistry (copper-ferrocyanide) method. Type I cells and stromal endothelia and fibroblasts showed no activities. Electron-dense precipitates indicating G6PD activity were clearly visible in the cytoplasm and on the cytosolic side of the endoplasmic reticulum of type II alveolar epithelial cells. The cytochemical controls ensured specific detection of enzyme activity. This enzyme may play a role in airway defense by delivering substances for cell proliferation and antioxidant forces, thus maintaining the airway architecture.
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