The effect of exhalation flow on endogenous particle emission and phospholipid composition

Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2017 Sep;243:39-46. doi: 10.1016/j.resp.2017.05.003. Epub 2017 May 11.


Exhaled particles constitute a micro-sample of respiratory tract lining fluid. Inhalations from low lung volumes generate particles in small airways by the airway re-opening mechanism. Forced exhalations are assumed to generate particles in central airways by mechanisms associated with high air velocities. To increase knowledge on how and where particles are formed, different breathing manoeuvres were compared in 11 healthy volunteers. Particles in the 0.41-4.55μm diameter range were characterised and sampled. The surfactant lipid dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine (DPPC) was quantified by mass spectrometry. The mass of exhaled particles increased by 150% (95% CI 10-470) for the forced exhalation and by 470% (95% CI 150-1190) for the airway re-opening manoeuvre, compared to slow exhalations. DPPC weight percent concentration (wt%) in particles was 2.8wt% (95%CI 1.4-4.2) and 9.4wt% (95%CI 8.0-10.8) for the forced and the airway re-opening manoeuvres, respectively. In conclusion, forced exhalation and airway re-opening manoeuvres generate particles from different airway regions having different DPPC concentration.

Keywords: Airway re-opening; Exhaled particles; Forced expiration; Non-invasive technique; PEx; Pulmonary surfactant.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breath Tests
  • Cough / metabolism
  • Cough / physiopathology
  • Exhalation / physiology*
  • Female
  • Functional Residual Capacity
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Inhalation
  • Lung Volume Measurements
  • Male
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Middle Aged
  • Phospholipids / analysis*
  • Pulmonary Surfactants / analysis*
  • Respiration
  • Respiratory System / metabolism*


  • Phospholipids
  • Pulmonary Surfactants