Temporal regulation of cytokine mRNA expression in equine recurrent airway obstruction

D. W. Horohov, R. E. Beadle, S. Mouch, S. S. Pourciau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Acute and chronic inflammation of the airway remains an important health problem for equids. "Heaves" or recurrent airway obstruction (RAO) remains one of the most commonly diagnosed conditions affecting the lung of older horses in Europe and the United States. The typical clinical signs of RAO include non-productive coughing, serous nasal discharge, labored expiratory effort, and flaring of the nostrils. Auscultation of the lungs of the affected horse often reveals abnormal respiratory sounds, described as crackles and wheezes, throughout the area of the lung field. These clinical signs occur secondary to an inflammatory response that results in bronchospasm, excessive mucus production and airway obstruction. This inflammatory response is characterized by the presence of excessive mucus and inflammatory cells, primarily neutrophils, in the small airways. Most evidence suggests that RAO is the result of a pulmonary hypersensitivity to inhaled antigens. Exposure of affected horses to hay dust, pollens, and mold spores leads to neutrophil accumulation in the lung and bronchospasm. The identification of allergen-specific IgE in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid and sera of affected horses supports the involvement of a late phase, IgE-mediated, hypersensitivity reaction in the pathogenesis of equine RAO. The production of IgE antibodies is regulated by the cytokines IL-4 and IL-13. Using a quantitative PCR method we have reported that horses with RAO exhibit a modified Type 2 cytokine response characterized by the production of IL-4 and IL-13 mRNA, but not IL-5 mRNA in BAL cells. Interferon-gamma mRNA was also elevated, suggesting a mixed response. While these results are consistent with equine RAO being the result of an aberrant Type 2 cytokine response to inhaled allergens, others have failed to find any evidence of elevated Type 2 cytokine mRNA in BAL from horses with "heaves". It is likely that these disparate results could be the result of differences in the clinical stage of the affected animals or the timing of sample collection. Here, we report a diverse pattern of cytokine gene expression when sampling a group of affected horses over a period of time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-245
Number of pages9
JournalVeterinary Immunology and Immunopathology
Issue number1-2 SPEC. ISS.
StatePublished - Oct 18 2005


  • Airway
  • Cytokine
  • Equine
  • Recurrent airway obstruction
  • Summer pasture-associated obstructive airway disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • General Veterinary


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