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Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1998 Sep;158(3):985-90.

Bronchial mucosal immunoreactivity of sensory neuropeptides in severe airway diseases.

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  • 1Clinique des Maladies Respiratoires, Hôpital Arnaud de Villeneuve, Montpellier, France.


Neuropeptides act on most of the components of the bronchial environment. They influence bronchomotor tone and bronchial vascular caliber and permeability. To investigate the nonadrenergic, noncholinergic system within the airways in asthma and chronic bronchitis, we performed endobronchial biopsies in 16 normal human volunteers, 49 patients with asthma of varying severity, including 16 patients treated with oral corticosteroids, and 13 patients with chronic bronchitis. Frozen sections of biopsies stained with specific antibodies against the neural marker PGP 9.5, vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP), substance P (SP), calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), and neuropeptide Y (NPY) were analyzed for the presence of nerves through indirect immunofluorescence. Nerves were present in most of the biopsies and were found within and below the epithelium and adjacent to smooth muscle, glands, and blood vessels. By comparison with those in normal subjects, the numbers of VIP-immunoreactive nerves were not significantly decreased in patients with asthma and chronic bronchitis, but NPY-immunoreactive nerves were significantly decreased in the smooth muscle of these latter two groups of patients (p < 0.005). There was no correlation between disease severity and the number of nerves found in the biopsies. This study does not confirm previous findings in autopsy material of some defects in sensory and VIP-containing nerves in severe asthma.

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