Background: There is increasing evidence to support a role for total mast cells (MC(TOT)) in the vascular component of airway remodeling in asthma. On the contrary, up to now, no study has addressed the role of chymase-positive mast cells (MC(TC)) in microvasculature changes.
Objective: We sought to assess the role of MC(TC) in the vascular component of airway remodeling in asthma.
Methods: We recruited 8 patients with mild-to-moderate asthma and 8 healthy volunteers as a control group. Fiberoptic bronchoscopy with endobronchial biopsy was successfully performed in all subjects. Immunostaining was performed for quantification of vessels, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-positive cells, MC(TOT), and MC(TC).
Results: Compared with those from healthy subjects, endobronchial biopsy specimens from asthmatic patients showed increased numbers of MC(TOT) and MC(TC) and VEGF(+) cells (P < .05). In asthmatic patients the number of vessels and the vascular area was also greater than in healthy subjects (P < .05). Additionally, in asthmatic patients the number of MC(TC) was significantly related to the vascular area (r(s) = 0.74, P < .01) and to the number of VEGF(+) cells (r(s) = 0.78, P < .01). Moreover, a colocalization study revealed that MC(TC) were a relevant cellular source of VEGF. Finally, a 6-week treatment with inhaled fluticasone propionate was able to reduce MC(TC) numbers.
Conclusion: MC(TC) can play a role in the vascular component of airway remodeling in asthma, possibly through induction of VEGF.
Clinical implications: Specific targeting of MC(TC) might be a tool for treating vascular remodeling in asthma.