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Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1995 Dec;152(6 Pt 1):2068-75.

Abnormal intraepithelial airway nerves in persistent unexplained cough?

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Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Royal Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith Hospital, London, United Kingdom.


Idiopathic persistent nonproductive cough (PNPC) is characterized by enhanced cough sensitivity to inhaled capsaicin, suggesting that capsaicin-sensitive afferent airway nerves are either present in increased numbers or functionally upregulated. In 16 patients with idiopathic PNPC and eight healthy control subjects, we measured cough sensitivity to inhaled capsaicin and the anatomic density in bronchial epithelium of nerves immunoreactive for the general nerve-marker protein gene product (PGP)-9.5 and the sensory neuropeptides calcitonin-gene-related-peptide (CGRP) and substance-P (SP). The log concentrations of capsaicin required to elicit at least two (C2) and five (C5) coughs were significantly lower in patients (P) than in control subjects (C) (median [range] log C2, P = 0.3 [-0.3 to 1.2] microM; C = 1.5 [0.9 to 2.1], p < 0.0005; log C5, P = 0.8 [-0.3 to 2.1]; C = 2.6 [1.8 to 3.0], p < 0.0005). In bronchial epithelium taken from the carina of the right upper lobe (RUL) and a subsegmental carina of the right lower lobe (RLL), total nerve density (PGP-9.5 immunoreactivity) was greater in P than C, although this was not significant. CGRP-immunoreactive nerve density was significantly higher in P than in C in the RUL (median [range] P = 1.05% [0.13 to 5.08]; C = 0.02% [0 to 0.24], p = 0.001) and RLL (P = 0.59% [0.04 to 3.14]; C = 0% [0 to 0.50], p < 0.02). SP-immunoreactive nerves were not significantly different in the two groups. Abnormal intraepithelial airway nerves containing increased quantities of CGRP are present in patients with idiopathic PNPC.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

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