Gamma-tocopherol prevents airway eosinophilia and mucous cell hyperplasia in experimentally induced allergic rhinitis and asthma

Clin Exp Allergy. 2008 Mar;38(3):501-11. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2222.2007.02855.x. Epub 2007 Oct 26.


Background: Traditional therapies for asthma and allergic rhinitis (AR) such as corticosteroids and antihistamines are not without limitations and side effects. The use of complementary and alternative approaches to treat allergic airways disease, including the use of herbal and dietary supplements, is increasing but their efficacy and safety are relatively understudied. Previously, we have demonstrated that gamma-tocopherol (gammaT), the primary form of dietary vitamin E, is more effective than alpha-tocopherol, the primary form found in supplements and tissue, in reducing systemic inflammation induced by non-immunogenic stimuli.

Objective: We used allergic Brown Norway rats to test the hypothesis that a dietary supplement with gammaT would protect from adverse nasal and pulmonary responses to airway allergen provocation.

Methods: Ovalbumin (OVA)-sensitized Brown Norway rats were treated orally with gammaT before intranasal provocation with OVA. Twenty-four hours after two challenges, histopathological changes in the nose, sinus and pulmonary airways were compared with gene expression and cytokine production in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid and plasma.

Results: We found that acute dosing for 4 days with gammaT was sufficient to provide broad protection from inflammatory cell recruitment and epithelial cell alterations induced by allergen challenge. Eosinophil infiltration into airspaces and tissues of the lung, nose, sinus and nasolacrimal duct was blocked in allergic rats treated with gammaT. Pulmonary production of soluble mediators PGE(2), LTB(4) and cysteinyl leukotrienes, and nasal expression of IL-4, -5, -13 and IFN-gamma were also inhibited by gammaT. Mucous cell metaplasia, the increase in the number of goblet cells and amounts of intraepithelial mucus storage, was induced by allergen in both pulmonary and nasal airways and decreased by treatment with gammaT.

Conclusions: Acute treatment with gammaT inhibits important inflammatory pathways that underlie the pathogenesis of both AR and asthma. Supplementation with gammaT may be a novel complementary therapy for allergic airways disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Asthma / etiology
  • Asthma / pathology*
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / chemistry
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / cytology
  • Cytokines / analysis
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Eosinophilia / prevention & control*
  • Gene Expression
  • Hyperplasia / prevention & control
  • Hypersensitivity / complications*
  • Lung / metabolism
  • Lung / pathology
  • Male
  • Nasal Mucosa / pathology
  • Ovalbumin / immunology
  • Paranasal Sinuses / pathology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred BN
  • Respiratory Mucosa / pathology*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Rhinitis / etiology
  • Rhinitis / pathology*
  • gamma-Tocopherol / metabolism
  • gamma-Tocopherol / pharmacology*


  • Antioxidants
  • Cytokines
  • gamma-Tocopherol
  • Ovalbumin