Glufosinate-ammonium (GLA), the active component of an herbicide, is known to cause neurotoxicity. GLA shares structural analogy with glutamate. It is a powerful inhibitor of glutamine synthetase (GS) and may bind to glutamate receptors. Since these potentials targets of GLA are present in lung and immune cells, we asked whether airway exposure to GLA may cause lung inflammation in mice. A single GLA exposure (1 mg/kg) induced seizures and inflammatory cell recruitment in the broncho-alveolar space, and increased myeloperoxidase (MPO), inducible NO synthase (iNOS), interstitial inflammation and disruption of alveolar septae within 6–24 h. Interleukin 1β (IL-1β) was increased and lung inflammation depended on IL-1 receptor 1 (IL-1R1). We demonstrate that glutamate receptor pathway is central, since the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor inhibitor MK-801 prevented GLA-induced lung inflammation. Chronic exposure (0.2 mg/kg 3× per week for 4 weeks) caused moderate lung inflammation and enhanced airway hyperreactivity with significant increased airway resistance. In conclusion, GLA aerosol exposure causes glutamate signalling and IL-1R-dependent pulmonary inflammation with airway hyperreactivity in mice.

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