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Enhanced pulmonary expression of the TrkB neurotrophin receptor in hypoxic rats is associated with increased acetylcholine-induced airway contractility

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Abstract Aim: 

We have recently reported that hypoxia stimulates transcription of the TrkB neurotrophin receptor in cultured cells via stabilization of hypoxia-inducible factor-1α. Here we investigated whether the expression of TrkB and other neurotrophin receptors is oxygen-sensitive also in vivo, and explored the functional consequences of an oxygen-regulated TrkB expression. Methods: 

Rats were exposed either to 21% O2 or 8% O2 for 6 h and TrkB was analysed by reverse transcription real-time PCR, in situ mRNA hybridization, and immunological techniques. The importance of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)-TrkB pathway in the control of mechanical airway function was assessed on isolated tracheal segments from normoxic and hypoxic rats. Results: 

TrkB transcripts were increased approx. 15-fold in the lungs of hypoxic rats, and the respiratory epithelium was identified as the site of enhanced TrkB expression in hypoxia. The TrkB ligand, BDNF, significantly increased the contractile response to acetylcholine (ACh) of isolated tracheal segments from hypoxic but not from normoxic rats. This effect of BDNF was prevented by pre-incubation of the tissue specimens with the tyrosine kinase inhibitor K252a and by mechanical removal of the TrkB containing airway epithelium. Likewise, the nitric oxide (NO) synthase inhibitorl-NAME abrogated the influence of BDNF on ACh-induced contractions of isolated tracheal segments from hypoxic rats. Conclusion: 

These results demonstrate that systemic hypoxia stimulates expression of the TrkB neurotrophin receptor in the airway epithelium. Furthermore, activation of TrkB signalling by BDNF in hypoxia enhances mechanical airway contractility to ACh through a mechanism that requires NO.

Keywords: acetylcholine; airway contractility; brain-derived neurotrophic factor; hypoxia; in situ mRNA hybridization; neurotrophin receptors

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1:  Institut für Vegetative Physiologie, Charité– Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany 2:  Institut für Vegetative Anatomie, Charité– Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany

Publication date: November 1, 2009

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