Role of tachykinins in asthma


Guy F. Joos, University Hospital Ghent
Department of Respiratory Diseases 7K12E
De Pintelaan 185 B-9000 Ghent


The sensory neuropeptides substance P (SP) and neurokinin A (NKA) are localized to sensory airway nerves, from which they can be released by a variety of stimuli, including allergen, ozone, or inflammatory mediators. Sensory nerves containing these peptides are relatively scarce in human airways, but it is becoming increasingly evident that inflammatory cells such as eosinophils, macrophages, lymphocytes, and dendritic cells can produce the tachykinins SP and NKA. Moreover, immune stimuli can boost the production and secretion of SP and NKA. SP and NKA have potent effects on bronchomotor tone, airway secretions, and bronchial circulation (vasodilation and microvascular leakage) and on inflammatory and immune cells. Following their release, tachykinins are degraded by neutral endopeptidase (NEP) and angiotensin-converting enzyme. The airway effects of the tachykinins are largely mediated by tachykinin NK1 and NK2 receptors. Tachykinins contract smooth muscle mainly by interaction with NK2 receptors, while the vascular and proinflammatory effects are mediated by the NK1 receptor. In view of their potent effects on the airways, tachykinins have been put forward as possible mediators of asthma, and tachykinin receptor antagonists are a potential new class of antiasthmatic medication.