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1.  Serotonin-1A Receptor Polymorphism (rs6295) Associated with Thermal Pain Perception 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e43221.
Serotonin (5-HT) is highly involved in pain regulation and serotonin-1A (5-HT1A) receptors are important in determining central 5-HT tone. Accordingly, variation in the 5-HT1A receptor gene (HTR1A) may contribute to inter-individual differences in human pain sensitivity. The minor G-allele of the HTR1A single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs6295 attenuates firing of serotonergic neurons and reduces postsynaptic expression of the receptor. Experiments in rodents suggest that 5-HT1A-agonism modulates pain in opposite directions at mild compared to high noxious intensities. Based upon this and several other similar observations, we hypothesized that G-carriers would exhibit a relative hypoalgesia at mild thermal stimuli but tend towards hyperalgesia at higher noxious intensities.
Fourty-nine healthy individuals were selectively genotyped for rs6295. Heat- and cold-pain thresholds were assessed along with VAS-ratings of a range of suprathreshold noxious heat intensities (45°C–49°C). Nociceptive-flexion reflex (NFR) thresholds were also assessed.
Volunteers did not deviate significantly from Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium. G-carriers were less sensitive to threshold-level thermal pain. This relative hypoalgesia was abolished at suprathreshold noxious intensities where G-carriers instead increased their ratings of heat-pain significantly more than C-homozygotes. No differences with regard to NFR-thresholds emerged.
To the best of our knowledge this is the first study of human pain perception on the basis of variation in HTR1A. The results illustrate the importance of including a range of stimulus intensities in assessments of pain sensitivity. In speculation, we propose that an attenuated serotonergic tone may be related to a ‘hypo- to hyperalgesic’ response-pattern. The involved mechanisms could be of clinical interest as variation in pain regulation is known to influence the risk of developing pain pathologies. Further investigations are therefore warranted.
PMCID: PMC3432037  PMID: 22952650
2.  Maternal Bereavement and Childhood Asthma—Analyses in Two Large Samples of Swedish Children 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e27202.
Prenatal factors such as prenatal psychological stress might influence the development of childhood asthma.
Methodology and Principal Findings
We assessed the association between maternal bereavement shortly before and during pregnancy, as a proxy for prenatal stress, and the risk of childhood asthma in the offspring, based on two samples of children 1–4 (n = 426 334) and 7–12 (n = 493 813) years assembled from the Swedish Medical Birth Register. Exposure was maternal bereavement of a close relative from one year before pregnancy to child birth. Asthma event was defined by a hospital contact for asthma or at least two dispenses of inhaled corticosteroids or montelukast. In the younger sample we calculated hazards ratios (HRs) of a first-ever asthma event using Cox models and in the older sample odds ratio (ORs) of an asthma attack during 12 months using logistic regression. Compared to unexposed boys, exposed boys seemed to have a weakly higher risk of first-ever asthma event at 1–4 years (HR: 1.09; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.98, 1.22) as well as an asthma attack during 12 months at 7–12 years (OR: 1.10; 95% CI: 0.96, 1.24). No association was suggested for girls. Boys exposed during the second trimester had a significantly higher risk of asthma event at 1–4 years (HR: 1.55; 95% CI: 1.19, 2.02) and asthma attack at 7–12 years if the bereavement was an older child (OR: 1.58; 95% CI: 1.11, 2.25). The associations tended to be stronger if the bereavement was due to a traumatic death compared to natural death, but the difference was not statistically significant.
Our results showed some evidence for a positive association between prenatal stress and childhood asthma among boys but not girls.
PMCID: PMC3210147  PMID: 22087265
3.  Neurotrophins and neurotrophin receptors in pulmonary sarcoidosis - granulomas as a source of expression 
Respiratory Research  2010;11(1):156.
Pulmonary sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease, characterized by an accumulation of CD4+ lymphocytes and the formation of non-caseating epithelioid cell granulomas in the lungs. The disease either resolves spontaneously or develops into a chronic disease with fibrosis. The neurotrophins nerve growth factor (NGF), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) have been suggested to be important mediators of inflammation and mediate tissue remodelling. In support of this, we have recently reported enhanced NGF levels in the airways of patients with pulmonary sarcoidosis. However, less is known about levels of BDNF and NT-3, and moreover, knowledge in the cellular sources of neurotrophins and the distribution of the corresponding neurotrophin receptors in airway tissue in sarcoidosis is lacking.
The concentrations of NGF, BDNF and NT-3 in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) of 41 patients with newly diagnosed pulmonary sarcoidosis and 27 healthy controls were determined with ELISA. The localization of neurotrophins and neurotrophin receptors were examined by immunohistochemistry on transbronchial lung biopsies from sarcoidosis patients.
The sarcoidosis patients showed significantly enhanced NT-3 and NGF levels in BALF, whereas BDNF was undetectable in both patients and controls. NT-3 levels in BALF were found higher in patients with non-Löfgren sarcoidosis as compared to patients with Löfgren's syndrome, and in more advanced disease stage. Epithelioid cells and multinucleated giant cells within the sarcoid granulomas showed marked immunoreactivity for NGF, BDNF and NT-3. Also, immunoreactivity for the neurotrophin receptor TrkA, TrkB and TrkC, was found within the granulomas. In addition, alveolar macrophages showed positive immunoreactivity for NGF, BDNF and NT-3 as well as for TrkA, TrkB and TrkC.
This study provides evidence of enhanced neurotrophin levels locally within the airways of patients with sarcoidosis. Findings suggest that sarcoid granuloma cells and alveolar macrophages are possible cellular sources of, as well as targets for, neurotrophins in the airways of these patients.
PMCID: PMC2994818  PMID: 21059230
4.  Differential regulation of neurotrophin expression in human bronchial smooth muscle cells 
Respiratory Research  2006;7(1):18.
Human bronchial smooth muscle cells (HBSMC) may regulate airway inflammation by secreting cytokines, chemokines and growth factors. The neurotrophins, including nerve growth factor (NGF), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and neurotrophin-3 (NT-3), have been shown to be elevated during airway inflammation and evoke airway hyperresponsiveness. We studied if HBSMC may be a source of NGF, BDNF and NT-3, and if so, how inflammatory cytokines may influence their production.
Basal and cytokine (IL-1β, IFN-γ, IL-4)-stimulated neurotrophin expression in HBSMC cultured in vitro was quantified. The mRNA expression was quantified by real-time RT-PCR and the protein secretion into the cell culture medium by ELISA.
We observed a constitutive NGF, BDNF and NT-3 expression. IL-1β stimulated a transient increase of NGF, while the increase of BDNF had a later onset and was more sustained. COX-inhibitors (indomethacin and NS-398) markedly decreased IL-1β-stimulated secretion of BDNF, but not IL-1β-stimulated NGF secretion. IFN-γ increased NGF expression, down-regulated BDNF expression and synergistically enhanced IL-1β-stimulated NGF expression. In contrast, IL-4 had no effect on basal NGF and BDNF expression, but decreased IL-1β-stimulated NGF expression. NT-3 was not altered by the tested cytokines.
Taken together, our data indicate that, in addition to the contractile capacity, HBSMC can express NGF, BDNF and NT-3. The expression of these neurotrophins may be differently regulated by inflammatory cytokines, suggesting a dynamic interplay that might have a potential role in airway inflammation.
PMCID: PMC1386667  PMID: 16441896

Results 1-4 (4)