Background: Our previous studies have shown that the ciliary beat frequency (CBF) of cultured ciliated airway epithelial cells exposed to chronic ethanol fails to increase in response to β-agonist stimulation. This loss of the ciliary “flight response” correlates with an ethanol-mediated desensitization of adenosine 3′:5′-cyclic monophosphate-dependent protein kinase (PKA), a known regulatory component of CBF stimulation. We hypothesized that a similar ethanol-mediated desensitization of CBF would occur in vivo.
Methods: Sprague Dawley® rats were fed a liquid diet containing various concentrations of ethanol for 1 or 5 weeks. Half were exposed to cigarette smoke for 12 weeks and half were sham exposed. Animals were killed and tracheal epithelial cells analyzed for CBF and PKA activity.
Results: Baseline CBF (∼6Hz) was unchanged in tracheal epithelial cells of rats consuming diets containing 0–36% ethanol for 5 weeks. Isoproterenol stimulated CBF to 12 to 13 Hz in the tracheal epithelial cells of control rats not administered ethanol. However, isoproterenol stimulation of CBF was blunted to 7.5 Hz in rats eating a 26% ethanol diet, and there was no stimulation of CBF in rats fed a diet containing 36% ethanol. Similarly, isoproterenol stimulated a 2- to 3-fold increase in PKA activity in control rats, but this PKA response to isoproterenol was blunted in rats fed increasing concentrations of ethanol. No isoproterenol-stimulated PKA response was observed in rats fed 36% ethanol. No ethanol-induced changes in cyclic guanosine monophosphate-dependent protein kinase or protein kinase C were observed in the rats’ tracheal epithelial cells. Cigarette smoke exposure slightly elevated baseline CBF and lowered the ethanol consumption level for isoproterenol-desensitization of CBF and PKA activation to 16%. No isoproterenol desensitization was observed after 1 week of alcohol feeding. Furthermore, 36% ethanol-feeding for 1 week stimulated rat tracheal CBF and PKA.
Conclusion: These data demonstrate that in vivo administration of ethanol to rats results in decreased ciliary beating and the desensitization of PKA. This suggests a mechanism for mucociliary clearance dysfunction in alcoholics.