Increased airway responsiveness to inhaled methacholine in a rat model of chronic bronchitis.
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Chronic exposure of rats to high concentrations of SO2 gas causes pathologic changes in airway similar to those seen in human chronic bronchitis. The purpose of this study was to examine the pulmonary mechanical correlates of these changes and to quantify the extent of mucous hypersecretion by measuring changes in mucous glycoproteins. Female Sprague-Dawley rats were exposed to 250 ppm SO2 gas, 5 h/d, 5 d/wk, for a period of 4 wk. Control rats were exposed to air only. On the day after the last SO2 exposure, rats were anesthetized, instrumented for the measurement of pulmonary resistance (RL) and dynamic compliance (Cdyn), and ventilated. Chronic SO2 exposure caused a small but significant increase in RL and decrease in Cdyn. Airway responsiveness to inhaled aerosolized methacholine was increased in SO2-exposed rats, as indicated by approximately 6.6- and 4.6-fold decreases respectively, in the doses of inhaled methacholine required to double RL or decrease Cdyn to 50% of baseline. SO2 exposure had no effect on the contractile response of the trachea measured in vitro. Tracheae and lungs from SO2-exposed animals exhibited 140 and 535% increases in measured neutral mucous glycoproteins, respectively, and 33 and 37% increases in acid glycoproteins. Our results indicate that this animal model of chronic bronchitis mimics the mucous hypersecretion, airway obstruction, and increased airway responsiveness observed in human bronchitis and may allow us to begin to probe their mechanistic basis.