Interactions of allergens and irritants in susceptible populations in producing lung dysfunction: implications for future research.

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This article has been peer reviewed. It was published in: Environmental health perspectives.

2001 Aug;109 Suppl 4:605-7.

The published version is available at PMID: 11544171. Copyright © National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences


Environmental agents, when applied in combination or sequentially, can induce a wide variety of adverse health effects in humans. To determine the effects of sequential allergen challenge and acid exposure on human bronchial epithelial cell function, we subjected normal, nonallergic control and ragweed-allergic individuals to bronchoscopic segmental ragweed challenge in vivo. We harvested bronchial epithelial cells by brush biopsy both before challenge and 24 hr after challenge and exposed cells to an acid stress in vitro (pH 5 for 3 hr), followed by a 1-hr recovery period at normal pH. In normal, nonallergic subjects, segmental allergen challenge produced no effects on ciliary activity; pH 5 exposure produced reduced ciliary activity (a decrease in the percent of the initially active area), with significant recovery after cells were returned to a normal pH. Ciliary activity from allergic subjects was also inhibited by pH 5 exposure; however, activity was not recovered when cells were placed in medium of normal pH. Ciliary activity in allergics who developed a stress response postantigen challenge, as determined by an induction of the 27 kDa stress (heat shock) protein, displayed no ciliary dysfunction when exposed to a pH 5 stress. In this case, a stress sufficient to provoke a heat shock (stress) protein (HSP) response (but not one that produced more severe lung injury and did not provoke an HSP response) protected cells from a subsequent acid stress. Because of our observations and recent findings reported in the literature, we suggest that in order to define the wide variety of health effects of environmental agents, control as well as at-risk populations should be studied and the ability to define potentially beneficial as well as detrimental effects should be built into the experimental design. Inclusion of different and novel end points also should be considered.

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