The alveoli are, in fact, lined with two types of cells termed the type 1 and type 2 pneumocytes:
- Type 1 pneumocyte: The cell responsible for the gas (oxygen and carbon dioxide) exchange that takes place in the alveoli. It is a very large thin cell stretched over a very large area. This type of cell is susceptible to a large number of toxic insults and cannot replicate itself.
- Type 2 pneumocyte: The cell responsible for the production and secretion of surfactant (the molecule that reduces the surface tension of pulmonary fluids and contributes to the elastic properties of the lungs). The type 2 pneumocyte is a smaller cell that can replicate in the alveoli and will replicate to replace damaged type 1 pneumocytes.