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Int J Exp Pathol. 2013 Dec;94(6):399-411. doi: 10.1111/iep.12041. Epub 2013 Sep 2.

Restoration of the normal Clara cell phenotype after chronic allergic inflammation.

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  • 1Centro de Microscopía Electrónica, INICSA-CONICET, Facultad de Ciencias Médicas, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Córdoba, Argentina.


Bronchiolar Clara cells play a critical role in lung homoeostasis. The main goal of this study was to evaluate the effects of chronic allergy on these cells and the efficacy of budesonide (BUD) and montelukast (MK) in restoring their typical phenotypes after ovalbumin-induced chronic allergy in mice. Chronic allergy induced extensive bronchiolar Alcian blue-periodic acid-Schiff (AB/PAS)-positive metaplasia. In addition, cells accumulated numerous big electron-lucent granules negative for Clara cell main secretory protein (CC16), and consequently, CC16 was significantly reduced in bronchoalveolar lavage. A concomitant reduction in SP-D and CYP2E1 content was observed. The phenotypic changes induced by allergy were pharmacologically reversed by both treatments; MK was more efficient than BUD in doing so. MK decreased AB/PAS reactivity to control levels whereas they remained persistently elevated after BUD. Moreover, most non-ciliated cells recovered their normal morphology after MK, whereas for BUD normal cells coexisted with 'transitional' cells that contained remnant mucous granules and stained strongly for CC16 and SP-D. Glucocorticoids were also less able to reduce inflammatory infiltration and maintained higher percentage of neutrophils, which may have contributed to prolonged mucin expression. These results show that chronic allergy-induced mucous metaplasia of Clara cells affects their defensive mechanisms. However, anti-inflammatory treatments were able to re-establish the normal phenotype of Clara cell, with MK being more efficient at restoring a normal profile than BUD. This study highlights the role of epithelial cells in lung injuries and their contribution to anti-inflammatory therapies.

© 2013 The Authors. International Journal of Experimental Pathology © 2013 International Journal of Experimental Pathology.


CC16; Clara cells; asthma treatment; chronic inflammation

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