Regional differences in the pattern of airway remodeling following chronic allergen exposure in mice
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BACKGROUND: Airway remodeling present in the large airways in asthma or asthma models has been associated with airway dysfunction in humans and mice. It is not clear if airways distal to the large conducting airways have similar degrees of airway remodeling following chronic allergen exposure in mice. Our objective was to test the hypothesis that airway remodeling is heterogeneous by optimizing a morphometric technique for distal airways and applying this to mice following chronic exposure to allergen or saline. METHODS: In this study, BALB/c mice were chronically exposed to intranasal allergen or saline. Lung sections were stained for smooth muscle, collagen, and fibronectin content. Airway morphometric analysis of small (0-50000 microm2), medium (50000 microm2-175000 microm2) and large (>175000 microm2) airways was based on quantifying the area of positive stain in several defined sub-epithelial regions of interest. Optimization of this technique was based on calculating sample sizes required to detect differences between allergen and saline exposed animals. RESULTS: Following chronic allergen exposure BALB/c mice demonstrate sustained airway hyperresponsiveness. BALB/c mice demonstrate an allergen-induced increase in smooth muscle content throughout all generations of airways, whereas changes in subepithelial collagen and fibronectin content are absent from distal airways. CONCLUSION: We demonstrate for the first time, a systematic objective analysis of allergen induced airway remodeling throughout the tracheobronchial tree in mice. Following chronic allergen exposure, at the time of sustained airway dysfunction, BALB/c mice demonstrate regional differences in the pattern of remodeling. Therefore results obtained from limited regions of lung should not be considered representative of the entire airway tree.
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