Augmentation of arginase 1 expression by exposure to air pollution exacerbates the airways hyperresponsiveness in murine models of asthma.

North ML, Amatullah H, Khanna N, Urch B, Grasemann H, Silverman F, Scott JA.
Respir Res. 2011 Feb 3;12:19.

BACKGROUND: Arginase overexpression contributes to airways hyperresponsiveness (AHR) in asthma. Arginase expression is further augmented in cigarette smoking asthmatics, suggesting that it may be upregulated by environmental pollution. Thus, we hypothesize that arginase contributes to the exacerbation of respiratory symptoms following exposure to air pollution, and that pharmacologic inhibition of arginase would abrogate the pollution-induced AHR.

METHODS: To investigate the role of arginase in the air pollution-induced exacerbation of airways responsiveness, we employed two murine models of allergic airways inflammation. Mice were sensitized to ovalbumin (OVA) and challenged with nebulized PBS (OVA/PBS) or OVA (OVA/OVA) for three consecutive days (sub-acute model) or 12 weeks (chronic model), which exhibit inflammatory cell influx and remodeling/AHR, respectively. Twenty-four hours after the final challenge, mice were exposed to concentrated ambient fine particles plus ozone (CAP+O₃), or HEPA-filtered air (FA), for 4 hours. After the CAP+O₃ exposures, mice underwent tracheal cannulation and were treated with an aerosolized arginase inhibitor (S-boronoethyl-L-cysteine; BEC) or vehicle, immediately before determination of respiratory function and methacholine-responsiveness using the flexiVent®. Lungs were then collected for comparison of arginase activity, protein expression, and immunohistochemical localization.

RESULTS: Compared to FA, arginase activity was significantly augmented in the lungs of CAP+O₃-exposed OVA/OVA mice in both the sub-acute and chronic models. Western blotting and immunohistochemical staining revealed that the increased activity was due to arginase 1 expression in the area surrounding the airways in both models. Arginase inhibition significantly reduced the CAP+O₃-induced increase in AHR in both models.

CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrates that arginase is upregulated following environmental exposures in murine models of asthma, and contributes to the pollution-induced exacerbation of airways responsiveness. Thus arginase may be a therapeutic target to protect susceptible populations against the adverse health effects of air pollution, such as fine particles and ozone, which are two of the major contributors to smog.

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