Bernard, S. L., D. L. Luchtel, R. W. Glenny and S. Lakshminarayan. Bronchial circulation in the marsupial opossum, Didelphis marsupialis. Respiration Physiology. 105:1-2, 1996.
This study characterizes the existence of a bronchial circulation in a marsupial, an animal which does not undergo placental development and does not have a ductus arteriosus. Direct perfusion of the lung by the pulmonary vasculature during the fetal development of opossums may occur, potentially eliminating the need for a bronchial circulation. We used radio- and fluorescent-labeled microspheres in conjunction with postmortem intravascular casting to determine if opossums have a systemic (bronchial) blood supply to the lung (n = 9). Gross postmortem examination of the intravascular casts showed a well-developed common bronchial artery. The histological distribution pattern of fluorescent microspheres was primarily to the airways. A few fluorescent microspheres were observed in the alveolar capillaries, indicating that a precapillary bronchial-to-pulmonary anastomosis exists in the opossum. Using the reference flow technique, total bronchial blood flow to the left lung averaged 0.95 +/- 0.58 SE ml/min. The presence of a bronchial circulation in the opossum suggests that it is more than a vestigial structure from embryonic development, potentially supporting its functional importance for carrying nutrients to the airway.