An attempt to describe the nature of the surface-active substances of the eustachian tube lining layer that influence normal tubal function was undertaken. Under sterile conditions, guinea pig tubotympanic washings were collected, centrifuged, and pooled. Analysis of the pooled lavages using standard surface chemistry techniques confirmed the presence of significant surface-tension-lowering activity in the mucous lining layer of the eustachian tube, but the surface pressure obtained is neither as great nor displays the same degree of hysteresis as pulmonary surfactant. Following separation into aqueous and lipid fractions, measurable amounts of surface activity can be found in both isolates. The chemical composition and concentration of the lipid fraction, and its relative contribution to the surface activity of the tubotympanic washings, however, is smaller and radically different from the phospholipids found in surfactant. A significantly higher concentration of protein was recovered in comparison with the lipid portion, and it was observed that the surface activity of the total washings and the aqueous phase bore remarkable similarities. Although the surface-tension-lowering properties of the tubal lining layer may be the consequence of a combined synergistic action of the lipid and protein moieties, we believe that the current evidence points toward the proteins as being the primary tubal surface-tension-lowering substances.
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