Enhanced production of oxygen radicals in nocturnal asthma

Am Rev Respir Dis. 1992 Oct;146(4):905-11. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm/146.4.905.


Although the mechanisms of nocturnal worsening of pulmonary function in asthmatics have not been entirely established, airway inflammation is felt to be a major factor in disease severity. Consequently, to determine whether changes in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid cellular components and their functions are related to nocturnal airway obstruction, we performed BAL at 4:00 A.M. and at 4:00 P.M. in asthma subjects with (n = 5) and without (n = 10) nocturnal asthma. No significant changes were observed from 4:00 P.M. to 4:00 A.M. in the concentration of total cells or the percentage or concentration of eosinophils or neutrophils in BAL fluid from subjects with or without nocturnal asthma. However, superoxide anion generation by air-space cells from subjects with nocturnal asthma was significantly greater at 4:00 A.M. than at 4:00 P.M. (6.9 +/- 1.7 versus 1.8 +/- 0.5 nmol/500K cells/h, p less than 0.05). Moreover, superoxide production at 4:00 A.M. was greater in subjects with than in those without nocturnal asthma (6.9 +/- 1.7 versus 2.2 +/- 0.6, p less than 0.02). Furthermore, in our group of asthmatics, the change in generation of superoxide anion from 4:00 P.M. to 4:00 A.M. was significantly correlated with the change in FEV1 (r = -0.71, p less than 0.01). We conclude that the development of nocturnal airway obstruction in asthma is associated with enhanced production of oxygen radicals by air-space cells. Because oxygen radicals can cause airway injury and thus enhance bronchial obstruction, it is possible that the release of these reactive compounds is causally associated with nocturnal asthma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asthma / diagnosis
  • Asthma / metabolism*
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Bronchial Provocation Tests
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / chemistry
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / cytology
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Female
  • Histamine / analysis
  • Humans
  • Lung / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Spirometry
  • Superoxides / metabolism*


  • Superoxides
  • Histamine