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Persistence of serotonergic enhancement of airway response in a model of childhood asthma.


The persistence of airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR) and serotonergic enhancement of airway smooth muscle (ASM) contraction induced by ozone (O3) plus allergen has not been evaluated. If this mechanism persists after a prolonged recovery, it would indicate that early-life exposure to O3 plus allergen induces functional changes predisposing allergic individuals to asthma-related symptoms throughout life, even in the absence of environmental insult. A persistent serotonergic mechanism in asthma exacerbations may offer a novel therapeutic target, widening treatment options for patients with asthma. The objective of this study was to determine if previously documented AHR and serotonin-enhanced ASM contraction in allergic monkeys exposed to O3 plus house dust mite allergen (HDMA) persist after prolonged recovery. Infant rhesus monkeys sensitized to HDMA were exposed to filtered air (FA) (n = 6) or HDMA plus O3 (n = 6) for 5 months. Monkeys were then housed in a FA environment for 30 months. At 3 years, airway responsiveness was assessed. Airway rings were then harvested, and ASM contraction was evaluated using electrical field stimulation with and without exogenous serotonin and serotonin-subtype receptor antagonists. Animals exposed to O3 plus HDMA exhibited persistent AHR. Serotonin exacerbated the ASM contraction in the exposure group but not in the FA group. Serotonin subtype receptors 2, 3, and 4 appear to drive the response. Our study shows that AHR and serotonin-dependent exacerbation of cholinergic-mediated ASM contraction induced by early-life exposure to O3 plus allergen persist for at least 2.5 years and may contribute to a persistent asthma phenotype.

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