Airways hyperresponsiveness (AHR) is frequently a primary outcome in mouse models of asthma. There are, however, a number of variables that may affect the outcome of such measurements and the interpretation of the results. This article highlights issues that should be kept in mind when designing experiments using AHR as an outcome by reviewing techniques commonly used to assess AHR (unrestrained plethysmography and respiratory input impedance using forced oscillations), discussing the relationship between structure and function and, then exploring how the localization of AHR evolves over time, how the airway epithelium may affect the kinetics of methacholine induced AHR and finally how lung volume and positive end expiratory pressure (PEEP) can be used as tools assessing respiratory mechanics.
Hyperresponsiveness; forced oscillation; unrestrained plethysmography; lung volume; mouse models of asthma
Rationale: Allergically inflamed mice exhibit airway hyperresponsiveness to inhaled methacholine, which computer simulations of lung impedance suggest is due to enhanced lung derecruitment and which we sought to verify in the present study.
Methods: BALB/c mice were sensitized and challenged with ovalbumin to induce allergic inflammation; the control mice were sensitized but received no challenge. The mice were then challenged with inhaled methacholine and respiratory system impedance tracked for the following 10 minutes. Respiratory elastance (H) was estimated from each impedance measurement. One group of mice was ventilated with 100% O2 during this procedure and another group was ventilated with air. After the procedure, the mice were killed and ventilated with pure N2, after which the trachea was tied off and the lungs were imaged with micro-computed tomography (micro-CT).
Results: H was significantly higher in allergic mice than in control animals after methacholine challenge. The ratio of H at the end of the measurement period between allergic and nonallergic mice ventilated with O2 was 1.36, indicating substantial derecruitment in the allergic animals. The ratio between lung volumes determined by micro-CT in the control and the allergic mice was also 1.36, indicative of a corresponding volume loss due to absorption atelectasis. Micro-CT images and histograms of Hounsfield units from the lungs also showed increased volume loss in the allergic mice compared with control animals after methacholine challenge.
Conclusions: These results support the conclusion that airway closure is a major component of hyperresponsiveness in allergically inflamed mice.
asthma; micro-computed tomography; input impedance; lung derecruitment; lung volume
NF-κB activation within the epithelium has been implicated in the pathogenesis of asthma, yet the exact role of epithelial NF-κB in allergen-induced inflammation and airway remodeling remains unclear. In the present study, we utilized an intranasal House Dust Mite (HDM) extract exposure regimen time course in BALB/c mice to evaluate inflammation, NF-κB activation, airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR), and airway remodeling. We utilized CC10-IκBαSR transgenic mice to evaluate the functional importance of epithelial NF-κB in response to HDM. After a single exposure of HDM, mRNA expression of pro-inflammatory mediators was significantly elevated in lung tissue of WT mice, in association with increases in nuclear RelA and RelB, components of the classical and alternative NF-κB pathway, respectively, in the bronchiolar epithelium. In contrast, CC10-IκBαSR mice displayed marked decreases in nuclear RelA and RelB and mRNA expression of pro-inflammatory mediators compared to WT mice. After 15 challenges with HDM, WT mice exhibited increases in inflammation, airway hyperresponsiveness, mucus metaplasia and peri-bronchiolar fibrosis. CC10-IκBαSR transgenic mice displayed marked decreases in neutrophilic infiltration, tissue damping, and elastance parameters, in association will less peri-bronchiolar fibrosis and decreases in nuclear RelB in lung tissue. However, central airway resistance and mucus metaplasia remained elevated in CC10-IκBαSR transgenic mice, in association with continued presence of lymphocytes, and partial decreases in eosinophils and IL-13. The current study demonstrates that following airway exposure with an asthma-relevant allergen, activation of classical and alternative NF-κB pathways occur within the airway epithelium and may coordinately contribute to allergic inflammation, AHR and fibrotic airway remodeling.
Rationale: Tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α) has been implicated as a key cytokine in many inflammatory lung diseases. These effects are currently unclear, because a transgenic mouse overexpressing TNF-α in the lung has been shown in separate studies to produce elements of both emphysema and pulmonary fibrosis. Objectives: We sought to elucidate the phenotypic effects of TNF-α overexpression in a mouse model. Measurements: We established the phenotype by measuring lung impedance and thoracic gas volume, and using micro–computed tomography and histology. Main Results: We found that airways resistance in this mouse was not different to control mice, but that lung tissue dampening, elastance, and hysteresivity were significantly elevated. Major heterogeneous abnormalities of the parenchyma were also apparent in histologic sections and in micro–computed tomography images of the lung. These changes included airspace enlargement, loss of small airspaces, increased collagen, and thickened pleural septa. We also found significant increases in lung and chest cavity volumes in the TNF-α–overexpressing mice. Conclusions: We conclude that TNF-α overexpression causes pathologic changes consistent with both emphysema and pulmonary fibrosis combined with a general lung inflammation, and consequently does not model any single human disease. Our study thus confirms the pleiotropic effects of TNF-α, which has been implicated in multiple inflammatory disorders, and underscores the necessity of using a wide range of investigative techniques to link gene expression and phenotype in animal models of disease.
emphysema; micro–computed tomography; plethysmography; pulmonary fibrosis
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is an environmental pollutant and endogenously generated oxidant associated with the development, severity, and exacerbation of asthma. NO2 exposure is capable of allergically sensitizing mice to the innocuous inhaled antigen ovalbumin (OVA), promoting neutrophil and eosinophil recruitment, and a mixed Th2/Th17 response upon antigen challenge that is reminiscent of severe asthma. However, the identity of IL-17A–producing cells and the mechanisms governing their ontogeny in NO2-promoted allergic airway disease remain unstudied. We measured the kinetics of lung inflammation after antigen challenge in NO2-promoted allergic airway disease, including inflammatory cells in bronchoalveolar lavage and antigen-specific IL-17A production from the lung. We determined that IL-17A+ cells were predominately CD4+T cell receptor (TCR)β+ Th17 cells, and that a functional IL-1 receptor was required for Th17, but not Th2, cytokine production after in vitro antigen restimulation of lung cells. The absence of natural killer T cells, γδ T cells, or the inflammasome scaffold nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain, leucine rich repeat and pyrin domain (Nlrp)3 did not affect the development of NO2-promoted allergic inflammation or IL-17A production. Similarly, neutrophil depletion or the neutralization of IL-1α during sensitization exerted no effect on these parameters. However, the absence of caspase-1 significantly reduced IL-17A production from lung cells without affecting Th2 cytokines or lung inflammation. Finally, the intranasal administration of IL-1β and the inhalation of antigen promoted allergic sensitization that was reflected by neutrophilic airway inflammation and IL-17A production from CD4+TCRβ+ Th17 cells subsequent to antigen challenge. These data implicate a role for caspase-1 and IL-1β in the IL-1 receptor–dependent Th17 response manifest in NO2-promoted allergic airway disease.
asthma; Th17; IL-1R; IL-17; nitrogen dioxide
Airway epithelial NF-κB activation is observed in asthmatic subjects and is a cause of airway inflammation in mouse models of allergic asthma. Combination therapy with inhaled short-acting β2-agonists and corticosteroids significantly improves lung function and reduces inflammation in asthmatic subjects. Corticosteroids operate through a number of mechanisms to potently inhibit NF-κB activity. Since β2-agonists can induce expression of 11β-HSD1, which converts inactive 11-keto corticosteroids into active 11-hydroxy corticosteroids, thereby potentiating the effects of endogenous glucocorticoids, we examined whether this mechanism is involved in the inhibition of NF-κB activation induced by the β-agonist albuterol in airway epithelial cells. Treatment of transformed murine Club cells (MTCC) with (R)-albuterol (levalbuterol), but not with (S)- or a mixture of (R + S)- (racemic) albuterol, augmented mRNA expression of 11β-HSD1. MTCC were stably transfected with luciferase (luc) reporter constructs under transcriptional regulation by NF-κB (NF-κB/luc) or glucocorticoid response element (GRE/luc) consensus motifs. Stimulation of NF-κB/luc MTCC with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or tumor necrosis factor-α (TNFα) induced luc activity, which was inhibited by pretreatment with (R)-, but not (S)- or racemic albuterol. Furthermore, pretreatment of GRE/luc MTCC with (R)-, but not with (S)- or racemic albuterol, augmented 11-keto corticosteroid (cortisone) induced luc activity, which was diminished by the 11β-HSD inhibitor glycyrrhetinic acid (18β-GA), indicating that there was a conversion of inactive 11-keto to active 11-hydroxy corticosteroids. LPS- and TNFα-induced NF-κB/luc activity was diminished in MTCC cells treated with a combination of cortisone and (R)-albuterol, an effect that was inhibited by 18β-GA. Finally, pretreatment of MTCC cells with the combination of cortisone and (R)-albuterol diminished LPS- and TNFα-induced pro-inflammatory cytokine production to an extent similar to that of dexamethasone. These results demonstrate that levalbuterol augments expression of 11β-HSD1 in airway epithelial cells, reducing LPS-induced NF-κB transcriptional activity and pro-inflammatory cytokine production through the conversion of inactive 11-keto corticosteroids into the active 11-hydroxy form in this cell type.
albuterol; anti-inflammatory; 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase; glucocorticoid; epithelium
Severe, glucocorticoid-resistant asthma comprises 5-7% of patients with asthma. IL-17 is a biomarker of severe asthma, and the adoptive transfer of Th17 cells in mice is sufficient to induce glucocorticoid-resistant allergic airway disease. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is an environmental toxin that correlates with asthma severity, exacerbation, and risk of adverse outcomes. Mice that are allergically sensitized to the antigen ovalbumin by exposure to NO2 exhibit a mixed Th2/Th17 adaptive immune response and eosinophil and neutrophil recruitment to the airway following antigen challenge, a phenotype reminiscent of severe clinical asthma. Because IL-1 receptor (IL-1R) signaling is critical in the generation of the Th17 response in vivo, we hypothesized that the IL-1R/Th17 axis contributes to pulmonary inflammation and airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR) in NO2-promoted allergic airway disease and manifests in glucocorticoid-resistant cytokine production. IL-17A neutralization at the time of antigen challenge or genetic deficiency in IL-1R resulted in decreased neutrophil recruitment to the airway following antigen challenge but did not protect against the development of AHR. Instead, IL-1R-/- mice developed exacerbated AHR compared to WT mice. Lung cells from NO2-allergically inflamed mice that were treated in vitro with dexamethasone (Dex) during antigen restimulation exhibited reduced Th17 cytokine production, whereas Th17 cytokine production by lung cells from recipient mice of in vitro Th17-polarized OTII T-cells was resistant to Dex. These results demonstrate that the IL-1R/Th17 axis does not contribute to AHR development in NO2-promoted allergic airway disease, that Th17 adoptive transfer does not necessarily reflect an endogenously-generated Th17 response, and that functions of Th17 responses are contingent on the experimental conditions in which they are generated.
Rationale: The opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa causes both acute and chronic lung infections and is particularly problematic in patients with cystic fibrosis and those undergoing mechanical ventilation. Decreased lung function contributes significantly to morbidity and mortality during P. aeruginosa infection, and damage inflicted by P. aeruginosa virulence factors contributes to lung function decline.
Objectives: We sought to describe direct contribution of a bacterial phospholipase C/sphingomyelinase, PlcHR, to alteration of host lung physiology and characterize a potential therapeutic for protection of lung function.
Methods: We infected C57Bl/6 mice with P. aeruginosa wild-type or isogenic plcHR deletion strains and measured lung function using computer-controlled ventilators. For in vivo testing, miltefosine was delivered intraperitoneally 1 hour after infection. Infection and respiratory endpoints were at 24 hours after infection.
Measurements and Main Results: P. aeruginosa wild-type infection caused significant lung function impairment, whereas the effects of a ΔplcHR strain infection were much less severe. Surfactometry analysis of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid indicated that PlcHR decreased pulmonary surfactant function. Miltefosine has structural similarity to the PC and sphingomyelin substrates of PlcHR, and we found that it inhibits the cleavage of these choline-containing lipids in vitro. Miltefosine administration after P. aeruginosa infection limited the negative effects of PlcHR activity on lung function.
Conclusions: We have directly linked production of a single virulence factor in P. aeruginosa with effects on lung function, and demonstrated that the inhibitor miltefosine protects lung function from PlcHR-dependent surfactant dysfunction.
Pseudomonas; surfactant; phospholipase; respiratory mechanics
Pulmonary inflammation in asthma is orchestrated by the activity of NF-κB. NO and NO synthase (NOS) activity are important modulators of inflammation. The availability of the NOS substrate, l-arginine, is one of the mechanisms that controls the activity of NOS. Arginase also uses l-arginine as its substrate, and arginase-1 expression is highly induced in a murine model of asthma. Because we have previously described that arginase affects NOx content and interferes with the activation of NF-κB in lung epithelial cells, the goal of this study was to investigate the impact of arginase inhibition on the bioavailability of NO and the implications for NF-κB activation and inflammation in a mouse model of allergic airway disease. Administration of the arginase inhibitor BEC (S-(2-boronoethyl)-l-cysteine) decreased arginase activity and caused alterations in NO homeostasis, which were reflected by increases in S-nitrosylated and nitrated proteins in the lungs from inflamed mice. In contrast to our expectations, BEC enhanced perivascular and peribronchiolar lung inflammation, mucus metaplasia, NF-κB DNA binding, and mRNA expression of the NF-κB-driven chemokine genes CCL20 and KC, and lead to further increases in airways hyperresponsiveness. These results suggest that inhibition of arginase activity enhanced a variety of parameters relevant to allergic airways disease, possibly by altering NO homeostasis.
The relationship between airway structural changes (remodeling) and airways hyperresponsiveness (AHR) is unclear. Asthma guidelines suggest treating persistent asthma with inhaled corticosteroids and long acting β-agonists (LABA). We examined the link between physiological function and structural changes following treatment fluticasone and salmeterol separately or in combination in a mouse model of allergic asthma.
BALB/c mice were sensitized to intraperitoneal ovalbumin (OVA) followed by six daily inhalation exposures. Treatments included 9 daily nebulized administrations of fluticasone alone (6 mg/ml), salmeterol (3 mg/ml), or the combination fluticasone and salmeterol. Lung impedance was measured following methacholine inhalation challenge. Airway inflammation, epithelial injury, mucus containing cells, and collagen content were assessed 48 hours after OVA challenge. Lungs were imaged using micro-CT.
Results and Discussion
Treatment of allergic airways disease with fluticasone alone or in combination with salmeterol reduced AHR to approximately naüve levels while salmeterol alone increased elastance by 39% compared to control. Fluticasone alone and fluticasone in combination with salmeterol both reduced inflammation to near naive levels. Mucin containing cells were also reduced with fluticasone and fluticasone in combination with salmeterol.
Fluticasone alone and in combination with salmeterol reduces airway inflammation and remodeling, but salmeterol alone worsens AHR: and these functional changes are consistent with the concomitant changes in mucus metaplasia.
Allergic asthma is a complex process arising out of the interaction between the immune system and aeroallergens. Yet, the relationship between aeroallergen exposure, allergic sensitization and disease remains unclear. This knowledge is essential to gain further insight into the origin and evolution of allergic diseases. The objective of this research is to develop a computational view of the interaction between aeroallergens and the host by investigating the impact of dose and length of aeroallergen exposure on allergic sensitization and allergic disease outcomes, mainly airway inflammation and to a lesser extent lung dysfunction and airway remodeling.
Methods and Principal Findings
BALB/C mice were exposed intranasally to a range of concentrations of the most pervasive aeroallergen worldwide, house dust mite (HDM), for up to a quarter of their lifespan (20 weeks). Actual biological data delineating the kinetics, nature and extent of responses for local (airway inflammation) and systemic (HDM-specific immunoglobulins) events were obtained. Mathematical equations for each outcome were developed, evaluated, refined through several iterations involving in vivo experimentation, and validated. The models accurately predicted the original biological data and simulated an extensive array of previously unknown responses, eliciting two- and three-dimensional models. Our data demonstrate the non-linearity of the relationship between aeroallergen exposure and either allergic sensitization or airway inflammation, identify thresholds, behaviours and maximal responsiveness for each outcome, and examine inter-variable relationships.
This research provides a novel way to visualize allergic responses in vivo and establishes a basic experimental platform upon which additional variables and perturbations can be incorporated into the system.