We developed an in vitro system to assess the role of the epithelium in regulating airway tone using the intact guinea pig trachea (J. Appl. Physiol. 64: 466-471, 1988). This method allows us to study the response of the airway when its inner epithelial surface or its outer serosal surface is stimulated independently. Using this system we evaluated how the presence of intact epithelium can affect pharmacological responsiveness. We first examined responses of tracheae with intact epithelium to histamine, acetylcholine, and hypertonic KCl when stimulated from the epithelial or serosal side. We then examined the effect of epithelial denudation on the responses to these agonists. With an intact epithelium, stimulation of the inner epithelial side always caused significantly smaller changes in diameter than stimulation of the outer serosal side. After mechanical denudation of the epithelium, these differences were almost completely abolished. In the absence of intact epithelium, the trachea was 35-fold more sensitive to histamine and 115-fold more sensitive to acetylcholine when these agents were applied to the inner epithelial side. In addition, the presence of an intact epithelium almost completely inhibited any response to epithelial side challenge with hypertonic KCl. These results indicate that the airway epithelial layer has a potent protective role in airway responses to luminal side stimuli, leading us to speculate that changes in airway reactivity measured in various conditions including asthma may result in part from changes in epithelial function.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physiology (medical)