Background: There is limited information relating bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) cytology and cytokine messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) expression in racehorses with inflammatory airway disease (IAD).
Hypothesis and Objective: We hypothesize that cytokine expression in BAL cells would correlate with cytology. Thus, we evaluated the mRNA expression of selected cytokines in BAL cells in racehorses with exercise intolerance and lower airway inflammation.
Animals: Thirty-one client-owned Standardbred racehorses with exercise intolerance.
Methods: Prospective, observational study. Cells were obtained by BAL, and mRNA expression of interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-4, IL-8, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, and interferon (IFN)-γ was determined by reverse transcription quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR).
Results: Nine horses had normal BAL cell differential cytology (Controls), while 22 horses had evidence of IAD based on BAL fluid cytology. Relative expressions of TNF-α/glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH; 0.0092 ± 0.010 versus 0.0045 ± 0.005, P= .034), IL-4/GAPDH (0.001 ± 0.002 versus 0.0003 ± 0.0003, P= .029), and IFN-γ/GAPDH (0.0027 ± 0.003 versus 0.0009 ± 0.001, P= .028) were greater in horses with IAD compared with controls. Furthermore, IL-4/GAPDH (0.001 ± 0.002 versus 0.0002 ± 0.0003, P < .0001) and IFN-γ/GAPDH (0.003 ± 0.003 versus 0.001 ± 0.001, P= .002) mRNA expression was increased in horses with increased metachromatic cell counts compared with horses with normal metachromatic cell counts. Only the mRNA expression of IL-1β/GAPDH (1.1 ± 0.7 versus 0.3 ± 0.3, P= .045) was increased with airway neutrophilia.
Conclusions and Clinical Importance: Differences in gene expression were associated with the presence of IAD and with specific cell types present in airway secretions of Standardbred racehorses with poor performance. These findings suggest that different pathophysiological pathways are implicated in IAD.