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Chitinase-Induced Airway Hyperreactivity and Inflammation in a Mouse Model of Nonallergic Asthma

Weber-Chrysochoou, C;Darcan-Nicolaisen, Y;Wohlgensinger, J;Tinner, EM;Frei, R;Loeliger, S;Lauener, RP;Hamelmann, E;

Environmental exposure to mites and fungi has been proposed to critically contribute to the development of IgE-mediated asthma. A common denominator of such organisms is chitin. Human chitinases have been reported to be upregulated by interleukin-13 secreted in the context of Th2-type immune responses and to induce asthma. We assessed whether chitin-containing components induced chitinases in an innate immune-dependent way and whether this results in bronchial hyperresponsiveness. Monocyte/macrophage cell lines were stimulated with chitin-containing or bacterial components in vitro. Chitinase activity in the supernatant and the expression of the chitotriosidase gene were measured by enzyme assay and quantitative PCR, respectively. Non-sensitized mice were stimulated with chitin-containing components intranasally, and a chitinase inhibitor was administered intraperitoneally. As markers for inflammation leukocytes were counted in the bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid, and airway hyperresponsiveness was assessed via methacholine challenge. We found both whole chitin-containing dust mites as well as the fungal cell wall component zymosan A but not endotoxin-induced chitinase activity and chitotriosidase gene expression in vitro. The intranasal application of zymosan A into mice led to the induction of chitinase activity in the BAL fluid and to bronchial hyperresponsiveness, which could be reduced by applying the chitinase inhibitor allosamidin. We propose that environmental exposure to mites and fungi leads to the induction of chitinase, which in turn favors the development of bronchial hyperreactivity in an IgE-independent manner.