Stimuli-induced superoxide radical generation in vitro by human alveolar macrophages from smokers: modulation by N-acetylcysteine treatment in vivo

J Free Radic Biol Med. 1986;2(2):119-27. doi: 10.1016/s0748-5514(86)80060-5.


Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) was performed on nine healthy nonsmoking subjects and on 11 healthy smokers; in the last mentioned group lavage was performed before and after eight weeks treatment with N-acetylcysteine (NAC; 200 mg t.i.d.). The BAL cells were cultured for 2 h or overnight. Adherent cells were examined for their capacity to generate superoxide radicals (determined by superoxide dismutase (SOD)-inhibitable cytochrome C-reduction) at stimulation with phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA), serum-treated zymosan (STZ), the calcium ionophore A23187, or the chemotactic tripeptide formyl-methionylleucylphenylalanine (FMLP). Cells from nonsmokers responded with a very low degree of O(2)-generation to any of the stimuli employed whether cultured for 2 h or overnight. Cells from smokers also responded with low O(2)-generation after 2 h of culture. However, cells from smokers cultured overnight responded with marked O(2)-generation to PMA and STZ but the responses to FMLP and A23187 were low. NAC-treatment of the smokers resulted in a reduced degree of both PMA- and STZ-induced O(2)-generation in five individuals. In two other subjects, PMA-induced (but not STZ-induced) O(2)-generation was reduced. Two individuals showed increased O(2)-generation to PMA- and to STZ-stimulation after NAC-treatment. Mean values of O(2)-generation induced by A23187 or by FMLP were significantly reduced for cells harvested after NAC-treatment. Mean values for PMA-induced O(2)-generation also tended to be reduced by the treatment.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcysteine / pharmacology*
  • Free Radicals
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Macrophages / metabolism*
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / cytology
  • Smoking*
  • Spirometry
  • Superoxides / metabolism*


  • Free Radicals
  • Superoxides
  • Acetylcysteine