Effects of treatment on airway inflammation and thickening of basement membrane reticular collagen in asthma. A quantitative light and electron microscopic study

Am Rev Respir Dis. 1992 Apr;145(4 Pt 1):890-9. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm/145.4_Pt_1.890.


We have obtained airway mucosal biopsies by fiberoptic bronchoscopy for light and electron microscopic analysis of three distinct airway levels of the left lung in three subject groups. Group A: 11 subjects with mild atopic asthma (mean age, 29 yr; %FEV1, 89 to 116%; mean PC20 histamine, 2.42 mg/ml), each biopsied twice, one prior to 4 wk of treatment with either inhaled terbutaline (250 micrograms, two puffs four times daily; n = 5) or inhaled budesonide (200 micrograms, one puff twice daily; n = 6) followed by a second biopsy to allow determination of the effects of treatment. Group B: 10 subjects with severe asthma receiving long-term (average, 3.7 yr) corticosteroid treatment were biopsied once only (mean age, 28 yr; %FEV1, 86 to 129%; mean PC20 histamine, 1.85 mg/ml). Group C: 12 normal healthy control subjects (mean age, 35 yr; %FEV1, 92 to 135%; PC20 histamine greater than 16 mg/ml) biopsied once. By light microscopy of plastic-embedded sections, Group A asthmatics had an increased cellular infiltrate when compared with either the healthy control group or the Group B asthmatics (p less than 0.05). Both asthma groups had a thickening of basement membrane reticular collagen compared with the healthy control group (p less than 0.01). Compared with the control group, there was an increase in the percentage of the total cells that were mast cells (p less than 0.01) and eosinophils (p less than 0.05) in Group A and of eosinophils (p less than 0.01) and histiocytes (p less than 0.01) in Group B. The results of cell counts by electron microscopy largely supported these findings, and, in addition, they demonstrated an increased frequency of foci of free eosinophil granules and decreased numbers of neutrophils (p less than 0.01). By light microscopy, budesonide reduced the percentage of mast cells and eosinophils (p less than 0.05). But for the percentage of lymphocytes, which increased (p less than 0.05), terbutaline was without effect.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aerosols
  • Asthma / drug therapy
  • Asthma / pathology*
  • Basement Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Biopsy
  • Bronchi / pathology*
  • Bronchodilator Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Budesonide
  • Collagen / ultrastructure*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Pregnenediones / therapeutic use
  • Terbutaline / therapeutic use
  • Time Factors


  • Aerosols
  • Bronchodilator Agents
  • Pregnenediones
  • Budesonide
  • Collagen
  • Terbutaline