Airway exposure to 1,3-β-D-glucan (β-glucan), an essential component of the cell wall of several pathogenic fungi, causes various adverse responses, such as pulmonary inflammation and airway hypersensitivity. The former response has been intensively investigated; however, the mechanism underlying β-glucan-induced airway hypersensitivity is unknown. Capsaicin-sensitive lung vagal (CSLV) afferents are very chemosensitive and stimulated by various insults to the lungs. Activation of CSLV afferents triggers several airway reflexes, such as cough. Furthermore, the sensitization of these afferents is known to contribute to the airway hypersensitivity during pulmonary inflammation. This study was carried out to determine whether β-glucan induces airway hypersensitivity and the role of the CSLV neurons in this hypersensitivity. Our results showed that the intratracheal instillation of β-glucan caused not only a distinctly irregular pattern in baseline breathing, but also induced a marked enhancement in the pulmonary chemoreflex responses to capsaicin in anesthetized, spontaneously breathing rats. The potentiating effect of β-glucan was found 45 min later and persisted at 90 min. However, β-glucan no longer caused the irregular baseline breathing and the potentiating of pulmonary chemoreflex responses after treatment with perineural capsaicin treatment that blocked the conduction of CSLV fibers. Besides, the potentiating effect of β-glucan on pulmonary chemoreflex responses was significantly attenuated by N-acetyl-L-cysteine (a ROS scavenger), HC-030031 (a TRPA1 antagonist), and Laminarin (a Dectin-1 antagonist). A combination of Laminarin and HC-030031 further reduced the β-glucan-induced effect. Indeed, our fiber activity results showed that the baseline fiber activity and the sensitivity of CSLV afferents were markedly elevated by β-glucan instillation, with a similar timeframe in anesthetized, artificially ventilated rats. Moreover, this effect was reduced by treatment with HC-030031. In isolated rat CSLV neurons, the β-glucan perfusion caused a similar pattern of potentiating effects on capsaicin-induced Ca2+ transients, and β-glucan-induced sensitization was abolished by Laminarin pretreatment. Furthermore, the immunofluorescence results showed that there was a co-localization of TRPV1 and Dectin-1 expression in the DiI-labeled lung vagal neurons. These results suggest that CSLV afferents play a vital role in the airway hypersensitivity elicited by airway exposure to β-glucan. The TRPA1 and Dectin-1 receptors appear to be primarily responsible for generating β-glucan-induced airway hypersensitivity.
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