The in vivo function of murine granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) was investigated in mice, carrying a null allele of the GM-CSF gene, that were generated by gene targeting techniques in embryonic stem cells. Although steady-state hematopoiesis was unimpaired in homozygous mutant animals, all animals developed the progressive accumulation of surfactant lipids and proteins in the alveolar space, the defining characteristic of the idiopathic human disorder pulmonary alveolar proteinosis. Extensive lymphoid hyperplasia associated with lung airways and blood vessels was also found, yet no infectious agents could be detected. These results demonstrate that GM-CSF is not an essential growth factor for basal hematopoiesis and reveal an unexpected, critical role for GM-CSF in pulmonary homeostasis.
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