Previous studies have shown that in vitroadenosine enhances histamine release from activated human lung mast cells obtained by enzymic dispersion of lung parenchyma. However, adenosine alone has no effect on histamine release from these cells. Given the evidence for direct activation of mast cells after endobronchial challenge with adenosine and previous studies indicating that mast cells obtained at bronchoalveolar lavage are a better model for asthma studies than those obtained by enzymic dispersion of lung tissue, the histamine-releasing effect of adenosine was examined on lavage mast cells. Bronchoalveolar lavage fluid was obtained from patients attending hospital for routine bronchoscopy (n = 54). Lavage cells were challenged with adenosine or adenosine receptor agonists (20 min, 37 °C) and histamine release determined using an automated fluorometric assay. Endogenous adenosine levels were also measured in lavage fluid (n = 9) via an HPLC method. Adenosine alone caused histamine release from lavage mast cells in 37 of 54 patients with a maximal histamine release of 20.56±2.52% (range 5.2–61%). The adenosine receptor agonists (R)-N6-(2-phenylisopropyl)adenosine, 5'-N-ethylcarboxamidoadenosine and CGS21680 also induced histamine release from lavage mast cells. Preincubation of lavage mast cells with the adenosine receptor antagonist xanthine amine congener caused significant inhibition of the response to adenosine (P = 0.007). There was an inverse correlation between endogenous adenosine levels in the lavage fluid and the maximal response to in vitro adenosine challenge of the lavage cells. The findings of the present study indicate a means by which adenosine challenge of the airways can induce bronchoconstriction and support a role for adenosine in the pathophysiology of asthma. The results also suggest that cells obtained from bronchoalveolar lavage fluid may provide the ideal model for the testing of novel, adenosine receptor, targeted therapies for asthma.

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