Background: The pathogenesis of exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) involves the release of mediators from several airway cells in response to exercise challenge, but the mechanism leading to airflow obstruction during EIB is incompletely understood.
Objective: To evaluate the role of secreted mucin in the pathogenesis of EIB.
Methods: Induced sputum was collected at baseline and 30 minutes after exercise challenge in patients with asthma with EIB. The expression of gel-forming mucins and epidermal growth factor receptor ligands were assessed by quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Secreted mucin 5AC (MUC5AC), the eicosanoids cysteinyl leukotrienes (cysLTs) and 15S-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid (15S-HETE), and tachykinins neurokinin A (NKA) and substance P (SP) were measured in induced sputum supernatant.
Results: Among the gel-forming mucins, MUC5AC was expressed at the highest level. The gene expression of MUC5AC increased after exercise challenge compared with baseline and was associated with EIB severity by regression analysis. The relative levels of MUC5AC in induced sputum increased from a geometric mean of 9.5 at baseline to 18.4 postexercise challenge. Associations between the levels of MUC5AC and cysLTs and between the levels of cysLTs and NKA postexercise challenge were identified by regression analysis.
Conclusions: These data indicate that (1) the predominant gel-forming mucin expressed in induced sputum of patients with asthma with EIB is MUC5AC; (2) an increase in MUC5AC gene expression and release of MUC5AC protein occurs after exercise challenge; and (3) MUC5AC release may occur through the cysLT-associated activation of sensory airway nerves.