Substance P and its receptor neurokinin 1 expression in asthmatic airways

Hong Wei Chu, Monica Kraft, James E. Krause, Michael D. Rex, Richard J. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


Background: Neural mechanisms have been suggested to contribute to the pathogenesis of chronic asthma. The expression of neuropeptides such as substance P may be regulated by infectious pathogens, including Mycoplasma species. In contrast to substance P, the substance P receptor neurokinin 1 has not been examined at the protein level in asthmatic airways. Objective: This study evaluated substance P and neurokinin 1 protein expression and mucus content in endobronchial biopsy specimens from normal control subjects and asthmatic subjects. Detection of Mycoplasma pneumoniae was performed in both biopsy and bronchoalveolar lavage specimens. Methods: Biopsy specimens were collected from 10 normal control subjects and 18 asthmatic subjects before and after a 6-week treatment with a macrolide antibiotic (n = 11) or placebo (n = 7) and were stained for substance P, neurokinin 1, and mucus. M pneumoniae was evaluated by PCR. Results: At baseline, compared with normal control subjects, asthmatic subjects demonstrated increased expression of substance P and neurokinin 1 and mucus content in the airway epithelium. Epithelial mucus content correlated with epithelial substance P expression (r(s) = 0.45, P = .04) and FEV1 percent predicted (r(s) = -0.51, P = .019). After antibiotic treatment, both epithelial substance P and neurokinin 1 expression were significantly reduced in asthmatic subjects. M pneumoniae was found in 8 of 18 asthmatic subjects. Asthmatic subjects with M pneumoniae, compared with those without M pneumoniae, showed higher baseline epithelial neurokinin 1 expression, which was significantly reduced after antibiotic treatment (P = .02). Conclusion: Our data suggest that abnormalities in neural mechanisms may exist in the epithelium of asthmatic airways, and M pneumoniae is possibly involved in this process. Antibiotic intervention may be effective in the treatment of asthma partly through the downregulation of the neurogenic process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)713-722
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2000


  • Asthma
  • Mucus
  • Mycoplasma pneumoniae
  • Neurokinin 1
  • Neuropeptides
  • Substance P

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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