Reasons for performing study: Airway mucus accumulation is associated with indoor irritant and allergen exposure in horses with recurrent airway obstruction (RAO). Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and a chloride channel (calcium activated, family member 1; CLCA1) are key signalling molecules involved in mucin gene expression.
Objectives: We hypothesised that exposure to irritants and aeroallergens would lead to increased expression of the mucin gene eqMUC5AC and increased stored mucosubstance in the airways of RAO-affected horses, associated with increased neutrophils and CLCA1 and EGFR mRNA levels.
Methods: We performed quantitative RT-PCR of eqMUC5AC, CLCA1 and EGFR; volume density measurements of intraepithelial mucosubstances; and cytological differentiation of intraluminal inflammatory cells in small cartilaginous airways from cranial left and right and caudal left and right lung lobes of 5 clinically healthy and 5 RAO-affected horses that had been exposed to indoor stable environment for 5 days before euthanasia.
Results: Neutrophils were increased in RAO-affected horses compared to clinically healthy controls. EqMUC5AC mRNA levels were positively correlated with both CLCA1 and EGFR mRNA levels in RAO-affected horses but only with CLCA1 in controls. The relationship between eqMUC5AC and CLCA1 differed in the 2 groups of horses with RAO-affected animals overexpressing CLCA1 in relation to eqMUC5AC.
Conclusions: These data implicate CLCA1 as a signalling molecule in the expression of eqMUC5AC in horses but also suggest differential regulation by CLCA1 and EGFR between horses with RAO and those with milder degrees of airway inflammation.