Antioxidant enzyme activities, superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px) and total glutathione concentration were determined in guinea pig lung and liver over the final period of gestation (days 50–68) and at several ages post-partum. Pulmonary antioxidant capacity increased markedly over the final days of gestation, individual changes ranging from 29% (glutathione) to 198% (GSH-Px). Liver antioxidant capacity was always 4-fold to 10-fold greater than that of the lung and exhibited very similar developmental profiles to those observed in the lung. From day 60 gestation to term (68 days), activity of the liver antioxidants increased, ranging from 246% (CAT) to 610% (glutathione). A number of antioxidants in both lung and liver exhibited either immediate pre- or post-birth decreases in activity. These falls could not be attributed to the way in which the results were expressed: i.e. they were similar, expressed per unit DNA, per unit protein, or per g wet wt. Following birth, liver antioxidant capacity increased such that the highest enzyme activities or glutathione concentration were recorded at 66 days post-partum. In lung, only Mn-SOD and glutathione exhibited higher levels at 66 days postpartum than at birth. In combination, these results of pulmonary and hepatic antioxidant enzyme activity indicate that the lung is not unique in acquiring increased antioxidant protection in the final period of gestation. They also suggest that a tissue's antioxidant requirement is dictated more by metabolic rate (hence free radical production) than incident partial pressure of oxygen.

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