Morphometric approaches for evaluating pulmonary toxicity in mammals: implications for risk assessment

Risk Anal. 1994 Jun;14(3):293-302. doi: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.1994.tb00244.x.


Recent advances in quantitative morphology provide all the tools necessary to obtain structural information in the lung that can be quantified and interpreted in the three-dimensional world of toxicology. Structural hierarchies of conducting airways and parenchyma of the lung provide: (1) numbers of cells per airway, lobe, or lung; (2) surface areas of cells, airways, and alveoli; (3) length of airways and vessels; and (4) volumes of cells, alveoli, airways, vessels, and individual lobes or the entire lung. Unbiased sampling of these subcompartments of the lung requires fractionation of lobes or individual airways. Individual airways of proximal and distal generations are obtained by airway microdissection along one axial pathway and comparisons made between airway generations. Vertical sections of selected airways are used to sample epithelium and interstitium. Using this unbiased approach of quantitative morphology, we have shown that inhalation of low ambient concentrations of ozone ([O3]0.15 ppm) near or at the United States National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) (0.12 ppm O3) induces significant alterations in bronchiolar epithelium and interstitium in nonhuman primates but not rats. The alterations do not appear to be concentration- or time-dependent, thereby bringing into question the current NAAQS that may be at or above the threshold for distal airway injury in primates. Unbiased morphometric methods are critical in a quantitative evaluation of toxicological injury of mammalian tracheobronchial airways.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Animals
  • Dissection / methods
  • Lung / pathology
  • Lung Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Lung Diseases / pathology*
  • Mammals
  • Ozone / toxicity
  • Research Design
  • Risk Factors


  • Air Pollutants
  • Ozone