Sensitization of isolated rat vagal pulmonary sensory neurons by eosinophil-derived cationic proteins

Qihai Gu, Michelle E. Wiggers, Gerald J. Gleich, Lu Yuan Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


It has been shown that airway exposure to eosinophil-derived cationic proteins stimulated vagal pulmonary C fibers and markedly potentiated their responses to lung inflation in anesthetized rats (Lee LY, Gu Q, Gleich GJ, J Appl Physiol 91: 1318-1326, 2001). However, whether the effects resulted from a direct action of these proteins on the sensory nerves was not known. The present study was therefore carried out to determine the effects of these proteins on isolated rat vagal pulmonary sensory neurons. Our results obtained from perforated whole cell patch-clamp recordings showed that pretreatment with eosinophil major basic protein (MBP; 2 μM, 60 s) significantly increased the capsaicin-evoked inward current in these neurons; this effect peaked ∼10 min after MBP and lasted for >60 min; in current-clamp mode, MBP substantially increased the number of action potentials evoked by both capsaicin and electrical stimulation. Pretreatment with MBP did not significantly alter the input resistance of these sensory neurons. In addition, the sensitizing effect of MBP was completely abolished when its cationic charge was neutralized by mixing with a polyanion, such as low-molecular-weight heparin or poly-L-glutamic or poly-L-aspartic acid, before its delivery to the neurons. Moreover, a similar sensitizing effect was also generated by other eosinophil granule-derived proteins (e.g., eosinophil peroxidase). These results demonstrate a direct, charge-dependent, and long-lasting sensitizing effect of cationic proteins on pulmonary sensory neurons, which may contribute to the airway hyperresponsiveness associated with airway infiltration of eosinophils under pathophysiological conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L544-L552
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2008


  • Airway hypersensitivity
  • Airway inflammation
  • Eosinophil cationic protein
  • Eosinophil peroxidase
  • Major basic protein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


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