- BACKGROUND: Sensory neuropeptides have been suggested to play a role in the pathogenesis of a number of respiratory diseases including asthma and chronic non-productive cough. OBJECTIVES: To investigate the action of sensory neuropeptides on airway mast cells obtained by bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL). METHODS: BAL was performed on 23 nonasthmatic patients with cough (NAC), 11 patients with cough variant asthma (CVA) and 10 nonatopic controls. Washed lavage cells were stimulated (20 min, 37 degrees C) with calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), neurokinin A (NKA) and substance P (25 and 50 micromol/L). RESULTS: The neuropeptides tested induced histamine release in all groups studied. Only CGRP (50 micromol/L) induced significantly more histamine release from both NAC and CVA patients compared with control subjects (P = 0.038 and 0.045, respectively). CONCLUSION: Regardless of aetiology, mast cells from patients with chronic cough appear to have an increased responsiveness to CGRP compared with controls. The results of the present study suggest that the role of CGRP in chronic cough should be further investigated.