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J Pathol. 2006 Jul;209(3):392-9.

Expression of 5-lipoxygenase and cyclooxygenase pathway enzymes in nasal polyps of patients with aspirin-intolerant asthma.

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  • 1Allergy and Inflammation Research (IIR Division), Southampton University School of Medicine, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK.


In aspirin-intolerant subjects, adverse bronchial and nasal reactions to cyclooxygenase (COX) inhibitors are associated with over-production of cysteinyl-leukotrienes (cys-LTs) generated by the 5-lipoxygenase (5-LO) pathway. In the bronchi of patients with aspirin-intolerant asthma, we previously linked cys-LT over-production and aspirin hyper-reactivity with elevated immunoexpression in eosinophils of the terminal enzyme for cys-LT production, LTC4 synthase. We investigated whether this anomaly also occurs in the nasal airways of these patients. Immunohistochemical expression of 5-LO and COX pathway proteins was quantified in nasal polyps from 12 patients with aspirin-intolerant asthma and 13 with aspirin-tolerant asthma. In the mucosa of polyps from aspirin-intolerant asthmatic patients, cells immunopositive for LTC4 synthase were four-fold more numerous than in aspirin-tolerant asthmatic patients (p=0.04). There were also three-fold more cells expressing 5-LO (p=0.037), with no differences in 5-LO activating protein (FLAP), COX-1 or COX-2. LTC4 synthase-positive cell counts correlated exclusively with mucosal eosinophils (r=0.94, p<0.001, n=25). Co-localisation confirmed that five-fold higher eosinophil counts (p=0.007) accounted for the increased LTC4 synthase expression in polyps from aspirin-intolerant asthmatic patients, with no alterations in mast cells or macrophages. Within the epithelium, increased counts of eosinophils (p=0.006), macrophages (p=0.097), and mast cells (p=0.034) in aspirin-intolerant asthmatic polyps were associated only with 2.5-fold increased 5-LO-positive cells (p<0.05), while the other enzymes were not different. Our results indicate that a marked over-representation of LTC4 synthase in mucosal eosinophils is closely linked to aspirin intolerance in the nasal airway, as in the bronchial airways.

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