1. Airway oedema resulting from increased microvascular permeability is a characteristic pathological finding of asthma. The regional effects of putative mediators involved in asthma on airway microvascular permeability have been studied.

2. The effects of histamine, leukotriene (LT) D4 and platelet-activating factor (PAF) on microvascular permeability in the nasal mucosa, larynx, trachea, main bronchi and intrapulmonary airways of the guinea pig were assessed by measuring the extravasation of intravenously administered Evans Blue dye.

3. PAF and LTD4 caused increased microvascular leakage throughout the respiratory tract, although their effects were maximal in different regions. Histamine had no significant effect on intrapulmonary airways. PAF was more potent than LTD4 and histamine at all airway levels. For example, in the trachea the doses required to cause leakage of 50% of maximal (ED50) were 10.4 nmol/kg, 138 nmol/kg and 11.2 μmol/kg, respectively, for PAF, LTD4 and histamine.

4. The effect of the three mediators was maximal 5 min after intravenous administration. Histamine, but neither LTD4 nor PAF, still caused significant leakage 30 min after administration.

5. The increased microvascular leakage induced by the mediators was inhibited by their respective specific receptor antagonists, suggesting that the effect was mediated via specific receptors.

6. Histamine, LTD4 and PAF have varying potencies in increasing microvascular permeability in the guinea-pig respiratory tract, exert their maximal effect in different regions and have varying durations of action.

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