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Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2011 Feb;44(2):213-21. doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2009-0259OC. Epub 2010 Apr 15.

Acute response of airway muscle to extreme temperature includes disruption of actin-myosin interaction.

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Firestone Institute for Respiratory Health, St. Joseph's Hospital, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.


Despite the emerging use of bronchial thermoplasty in asthma therapy, the response of airway smooth muscle (ASM) to extreme temperatures is unknown. We investigated the immediate effects of exposing ASM to supraphysiologic temperatures. Isometric contractions were studied in bovine ASM before and after exposure to various thermal loads and/or pharmacologic interventions. Actin-myosin interactions were investigated using a standard in vitro motility assay. We found steep thermal sensitivity for isometric contractions evoked by acetylcholine, with threshold and complete inhibition at less than 50°C and greater than 55°C, respectively. Contractile responses to serotonin or KCl were similarly affected, whereas isometric relaxations evoked by the nitric oxide donor S-nitrosyl-N-acetylpenicillamine or the β-agonist isoproterenol were unaffected. This thermal sensitivity developed within 15 minutes, but did not evolve further over the course of several days (such a rapid time-course rules out heat shock proteins, apoptosis, autophagy, and necrosis). Although heat-sensitive transient receptor potential (TRPV2) channels and the calmodulin-dependent (Cam) kinase-II-induced inactivation of myosin light chain kinase are both acutely thermally sensitive, with a temperature producing half-maximal effect (T(1/2)) of 52.5°C, the phenomenon we describe was not prevented by blockers of TRPV2 channels (e.g., ruthenium red, gadolinium, zero-Ca(2+) or zero-Na(+)/zero-Ca(2+) media, and cromakalim) or of Cam kinase-II (e.g., W7, trifluoperazine, and KN-93). However, direct measurements of actin-myosin interactions showed the same steep thermal profile. The functional changes preceded any histologic evidence of necrosis or apoptosis. We conclude that extreme temperatures (such as those used in bronchial thermoplasty) directly disrupt actin-myosin interactions, likely through a denaturation of the motor protein, leading to an immediate loss of ASM cell function.

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