[Airway autonomic nervous system dysfunction and asthma]

Nihon Kokyuki Gakkai Zasshi. 1999 Jan;37(1):3-9.
[Article in Japanese]


Airways are richly innervated by 4 nervous systems, namely adrenergic, cholinergic, inhibitory nonadrenergic noncholinergic (i-NANC), and excitatory NANC (e-NANC) nervous systems. Dysfunction or hyperfunction of these systems may be involved in the inflammation or airway hyperresponsiveness observed in asthmatic patients. The cholinergic nervous system is the predominant neural bronchoconstrictor pathway in humans. Airway inflammation shows exaggerated acetylcholine release from cholinergic nerves via dysfunction of the autoreceptor, muscarinic M2, which is possibly caused by major basic protein or IgE. Vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) and nitric oxide (NO) released from i-NANC nerves act as an airway smooth muscle dilator. The effects of VIP and NO are diminished after allergic reaction by inflammatory cell-mediated tryptase and reactive oxygen species. Thus, in asthmatic airways, the inflammatory change-mediated neural imbalance may result in airway hyperresponsiveness. Tachykinins derived from e-NANC nerves have a variety of actions including airway smooth muscle contraction, mucus secretion, vascular leakage, and neutrophil attachment, and may be involved in the pathogenesis of asthma. Since tachykinin receptor antagonists are effective for bradykinin- and exercise-induced bronchoconstriction in asthmatic patients, these drugs may be useful for asthma therapy.

Publication types

  • English Abstract
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / physiology
  • Animals
  • Asthma* / etiology
  • Asthma* / physiopathology
  • Autonomic Nervous System Diseases / complications
  • Bradykinin / physiology
  • Bronchi / innervation*
  • Cholinergic Fibers / physiology
  • Humans
  • Nitric Oxide / physiology
  • Substance P / physiology
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiology*


  • Nitric Oxide
  • Substance P
  • Acetylcholine
  • Bradykinin