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Am J Physiol. 1997 Jul;273(1 Pt 1):L93-103.

Localization of eosinophils to airway nerves and effect on neuronal M2 muscarinic receptor function.

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Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Johns Hopkins Asthma and Allergy Center, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.


Neuronal M2 muscarinic receptors inhibit acetylcholine release from pulmonary parasympathetic nerves but are dysfunctional in antigen-challenged animals and asthmatics. Deletion of pulmonary eosinophils protects M2 receptor function in antigen-challenged guinea pigs. Therefore, the association of eosinophils with airway nerves was investigated. Nerve-associated eosinophils were significantly increased in challenged animals compared with controls (0.75 +/- 0.05 vs. 0.28 +/- 0.05 eosinophils/nerve). In antigen-challenged animals, eosinophil density was greatest around airway nerves, suggesting recruitment to the nerves. M2 receptor function was inversely correlated with the number of eosinophils per nerve, thus eosinophils are associated with airway nerves in antigen-challenged guinea pigs, where they impair M2 receptor function. In airways from three patients with fatal asthma, 196 of 637 eosinophils (30%) were associated with nerves, and release of eosinophil major basic protein was evident; conversely, in three control patients 1 of 11 (9%) eosinophils were in contact with nerves. Thus eosinophils and their granule proteins are also seen in association with airway nerves in patients with asthma.

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