Phenotypic alteration of neuropeptide-containing nerve fibres in seasonal intermittent allergic rhinitis


David Groneberg, Division of Allergy Research, Biomedical Research Center, Charité, Humboldt-University, BMFZ OR-3, Augustenburger Platz 1, D-13353 Berlin, Germany.


Background Allergic rhinitis (AR) is the most common allergic disease affecting the respiratory tract. Next to inflammatory changes, the airway innervation plays an important modulatory role in the pathogenesis of the disease.

Objective To examine the participation of different neuropeptides in the human nasal mucosa of intermittent (seasonal) AR tissues in the allergic season.

Methods Immunohistochemistry for substance P (SP), calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) and neuropeptide tyrosine (NPY) was related to the characterization of inflammatory cells in tissues of patients with seasonal AR (n=18).

Results While there was a significant increase in the number of eosinophils present if compared with a control group, no changes occurred in mast cell numbers. Immunostaining was abundantly found in different nerve fibre populations of both groups. SP expression was significantly increased in mucosal nerve fibres of patients with intermittent (seasonal) AR. Also, significantly increased numbers of VIP- and NPY-immunoreactive nerve fibres were found in biopsies of rhinitis patients in comparison with sections of normal human nasal mucosa. In contrast, CGRP expression did not change significantly.

Conclusion The increase of neuropeptide expression in mucosal nerve fibres indicates a major role of the autonomous mucosal innervation in the pathophysiology of intermittent (seasonal) AR.