Effects of human eosinophil granule-derived cationic proteins on C-fiber afferents in the rat lung

Lu Yuan Lee, Qihai Gu, Gerald J. Gleich

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50 Scopus citations


Experiments were performed to test the hypothesis that human eosinophil granule-derived cationic proteins stimulate vagal C-fiber afferents in the lungs and elicit pulmonary chemoreflex responses in anesthetized Sprague-Dawley rats. Intratracheal instillation of eosinophil cationic protein (ECP; 1-2 mg/ml, 0.1 mi) consistently induced an irregular breathing pattern, characterized by tachypnea (change in breathing frequency of 44.7%) and small unstable tidal volume (VT). The tachypnea, accompanied by decreased heart rate and arterial blood pressure, started within 30 s after the delivery of ECP and lasted for >30 min. These ECP-induced cardiorespiratory responses were completely prevented by perineural capsaicin treatment of both cervical vagi, which selectively blocked C-fiber conduction, suggesting the involvement of these afferents. Indeed, direct recording of single-unit activities of pulmonary C-fibers further demonstrated that the same dose of ECP evoked a pronounced and sustained (>30-min) stimulatory effect on pulmonary C-fibers. Furthermore, the sensitivity of these afferents to lung inflation was also markedly elevated after the ECP instillation, whereas the vehicle of ECP administered in the same manner had no effect. Other types of eosinophil granule cationic proteins, such as major basic protein and eosinophil peroxidase, induced very similar respiratory and cardiovascular reflex responses. In conclusion, these results show that eosinophil granule-derived cationic proteins induce a distinct stimulatory effect on vagal pulmonary C-fiber endings, which may play an important role in the airway hyperresponsiveness associated with eosinophil infiltration in the airways.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1318-1326
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001


  • Airway hyperresponsiveness
  • Airway inflammation
  • Asthma
  • Pulmonary C-fibers
  • Tachypnea

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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