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Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2008 Apr 15;122(3-4):256-64. doi: 10.1016/j.vetimm.2007.12.001. Epub 2007 Dec 24.

Partial divergence of cytokine mRNA expression in bronchial tissues compared to bronchoalveolar lavage cells in horses with recurrent airway obstruction.

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Department of Clinical Sciences, Section of Large Animal Surgery and Medicine, Equine Internal Medicine, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Box 7054, SE-750 07 Uppsala, Sweden.


The aim of this study was to investigate mRNA levels of cytokines in bronchial epithelium in horses with recurrent airway obstruction (RAO) during acute crisis and remission. Additionally, cytokine mRNA levels in endobronchial biopsies and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) cells were compared. Seven RAO horses were examined while in respiratory crisis following provocation and again while in remission after 2 months on pasture, during which time six healthy horses on pasture were also examined. Quantitative real-time PCR (RT-PCR) was used to assess mRNA expression for cytokines IL-5, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, IL-17 and transforming growth factor beta1 (TGF-beta1) in endobronchial biopsies and bronchoalveolar lavage. Expression of IL-8 mRNA was significantly upregulated during crisis in both endobronchial biopsies and BAL cells (p=0.036), while there was a similar trend for upregulation of IL-10 mRNA only in BAL cells that approached significance (p=0.059). Moreover, during crisis the expression of IL-8 mRNA in BAL cells was positively correlated to relative IL-6 mRNA expression (r(s)=0.971, p=0.001) and bronchial epithelial expression of IL-10 and TGF-beta1 mRNA were positively correlated (r(s)=0.943, p=0.005). In comparing the relationship of mRNA expression in BAL to biopsy in individual RAO horses, there was a positive correlation with IL-6 to IL-8 mRNA expression in BAL during respiratory crisis (r(s)=0.971, p=0.001) that also correlated positively with IL-8 expression in biopsies on pasture (r(s)=0.986, p<0.0001 for both). Regarding RAO horses at pasture versus controls neither the cytokine mRNA levels in endobronchial biopsy nor in BAL cells differed significantly. These results further support previous findings that IL-8 mRNA in both BAL cells and bronchial epithelium is upregulated in RAO horses during crisis. However, apart from IL-8, it appears that expression of other cytokines, including IL-5, IL-6, IL-10, IL-17 and TGF-beta1 in bronchial epithelium does not necessarily mirror cytokine expression in BAL cells in individual horses with RAO. Accordingly, examination of markers of inflammation in endobronchial tissue provides complementary but not necessarily identical information to that obtained in BAL cells. Given the potential for repeated sampling over time bronchial biopsy can serve as an invaluable additional tool for investigation of time-dependent changes in inflammatory process in this animal model of asthma.

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