Can breathing-like pressure oscillations reverse or prevent narrowing of small intact airways?

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2015 Jul 1;119(1):47-54. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01100.2014. Epub 2015 May 7.


Periodic length fluctuations of airway smooth muscle during breathing are thought to modulate airway responsiveness in vivo. Recent animal and human intact airway studies have shown that pressure fluctuations simulating breathing can only marginally reverse airway narrowing and are ineffective at protecting against future narrowing. However, these previous studies were performed on relatively large (>5 mm diameter) airways, which are inherently stiffer than smaller airways for which a preponderance of airway constriction in asthma likely occurs. The goal of this study was to determine the effectiveness of breathing-like transmural pressure oscillations to reverse induced narrowing and/or protect against future narrowing of smaller, more compliant intact airways. We constricted smaller (luminal diameter = 2.92 ± 0.29 mm) intact airway segments twice with ACh (10(-6) M), once while applying tidal-like pressure oscillations (5-15 cmH2O) before, during, and after inducing constriction (Pre + Post) and again while only imposing the tidal-like pressure oscillation after induced constriction (Post Only). Smaller airways were 128% more compliant than previously studied larger airways. This increased compliance translated into 196% more strain and 76% greater recovery (41 vs. 23%) because of tidal-like pressure oscillations. Larger pressure oscillations (5-25 cmH2O) caused more recovery (77.5 ± 16.5%). However, pressure oscillations applied before and during constriction resulted in the same steady-state diameter as when pressure oscillations were only applied after constriction. These data show that reduced straining of the airways before a challenge likely does not contribute to the emergence of airway hyperreactivity observed in asthma but may serve to sustain a given level of constriction.

Keywords: airway; asthma; deep inspiration; smooth muscle; stretch.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / pharmacology
  • Air Pressure
  • Animals
  • Bronchodilator Agents / pharmacology
  • Cattle
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging
  • Lung / physiology
  • Lung Compliance / drug effects
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology
  • Muscle Contraction / drug effects
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle, Smooth / drug effects
  • Muscle, Smooth / physiology
  • Respiration*
  • Respiratory Mechanics / physiology*
  • Respiratory System / anatomy & histology
  • Respiratory System / drug effects
  • Ultrasonography


  • Bronchodilator Agents
  • Acetylcholine