Muscarinic M₃ receptors contribute to allergen-induced airway remodeling in mice

Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2014 Apr;50(4):690-8. doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2013-0220OC.


Asthma is a chronic obstructive airway disease, characterized by inflammation and remodeling. Acetylcholine contributes to symptoms by inducing bronchoconstriction via the muscarinic M3 receptor. Recent evidence suggests that bronchoconstriction can regulate airway remodeling, and therefore implies a role for the muscarinic M3 receptor. The objective of this work was to study the contribution of the muscarinic M3 receptor to allergen-induced remodeling using muscarinic M3 receptor subtype-deficient (M3R(-/-)) mice. Wild-type (WT), M1R(-/-), and M2R(-/-) mice were used as controls. C57Bl/6 mice were sensitized and challenged with ovalbumin (twice weekly for 4 wk). Control animals were challenged with saline. Allergen exposure induced goblet cell metaplasia, airway smooth muscle thickening (1.7-fold), pulmonary vascular smooth muscle remodeling (1.5-fold), and deposition of collagen I (1.7-fold) and fibronectin (1.6-fold) in the airway wall of WT mice. These effects were absent or markedly lower in M3R(-/-) mice (30-100%), whereas M1R(-/-) and M2R(-/-) mice responded similarly to WT mice. In addition, airway smooth muscle and pulmonary vascular smooth muscle mass were 35-40% lower in saline-challenged M3R(-/-) mice compared with WT mice. Interestingly, allergen-induced airway inflammation, assessed as infiltrated eosinophils and T helper type 2 cytokine expression, was similar or even enhanced in M3R(-/-) mice. Our data indicate that acetylcholine contributes to allergen-induced remodeling and smooth muscle mass via the muscarinic M3 receptor, and not via M1 or M2 receptors. No stimulatory role for muscarinic M3 receptors in allergic inflammation was observed, suggesting that the role of acetylcholine in remodeling is independent of the allergic inflammatory response, and may involve bronchoconstriction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / metabolism*
  • Airway Remodeling*
  • Allergens*
  • Animals
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Eosinophils / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Female
  • Goblet Cells / metabolism
  • Goblet Cells / pathology
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism
  • Lung / metabolism*
  • Lung / pathology
  • Lung / physiopathology
  • Metaplasia
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Muscle, Smooth / metabolism*
  • Muscle, Smooth / pathology
  • Muscle, Smooth / physiopathology
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / metabolism
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / pathology
  • Ovalbumin*
  • Pneumonia / chemically induced
  • Pneumonia / metabolism*
  • Pneumonia / pathology
  • Pneumonia / physiopathology
  • Pulmonary Artery / metabolism
  • Pulmonary Artery / pathology
  • Receptor, Muscarinic M1 / deficiency
  • Receptor, Muscarinic M1 / genetics
  • Receptor, Muscarinic M2 / deficiency
  • Receptor, Muscarinic M2 / genetics
  • Receptor, Muscarinic M3 / deficiency
  • Receptor, Muscarinic M3 / genetics
  • Receptor, Muscarinic M3 / metabolism*


  • Allergens
  • Cytokines
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Receptor, Muscarinic M1
  • Receptor, Muscarinic M2
  • Receptor, Muscarinic M3
  • Ovalbumin
  • Acetylcholine