Inflammation and airway function in the lung periphery of patients with stable asthma

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2010 Mar;125(3):611-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2009.10.053. Epub 2010 Feb 4.


Background: An important role for exhaled nitric oxide (NO) measurement could be in the distinction between proximal and peripheral lung contributions to inflammation, with a particular interest for the alveolar lung zone and its implication on airway function.

Objective: We aimed to isolate the acinar lung zone contribution to both inflammation and airway function to seek a relationship between them.

Methods: In 30 patients with asthma with an asthma control test score exceeding 20, indices of conductive and acinar ventilation heterogeneity (Scond, Sacin) were obtained from a multiple breath washout. NO production in the conductive airways (J'aw(NO)), alveolar NO concentration (CA(NO)), and the standard exhaled NO at 50 mL/s (FENO(50)) were obtained from exhaled NO.

Results: Scond was consistently abnormal in all patients with stable asthma, but without any correlation to inflammation abnormality in that compartment (J'aw(NO)). Sacin was particularly abnormal in the asthma subgroup receiving >500 microg budesonide equivalent, and a correlation was found between Sacin and CA(NO) (r = 0.61; P = .015); in this subgroup, a weak association was found between Scond and J'aw(NO) or FENO(50) (r = 0.50; P = .059 for both).

Conclusion: The persistent functional abnormality of small conductive airways in patients with stable asthma is largely independent of inflammation as measured by exhaled NO. In the alveolar compartment, a functional correlate of alveolar NO was found in a subgroup of patients with stable asthma on moderate-to-high maintenance doses of inhaled steroids. These patients in particular could benefit from novel therapies specifically aimed at improving airway functionality at the level of the acinar entrance and beyond.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asthma / physiopathology*
  • Breath Tests / methods
  • Exhalation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nitric Oxide / analysis*
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / physiopathology
  • Pulmonary Ventilation / physiology
  • Respiratory Function Tests / methods
  • Young Adult


  • Nitric Oxide