Nitrogen dioxide compromises defence functions of the airway epithelium.Acta Otolaryngol Suppl 1998; 538:221-6AO
The effect of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) exposure on airway epithelial defence functions, such as ciliary activity, mucociliary transport velocity and junctional barrier function, remains to be elucidated. Our study investigates the effect of 24-h exposure to 3.0 ppm of NO2 on the airway epithelial defence functions in the healthy rabbit. Fifty-two healthy rabbits were exposed to 3.0 ppm of NO2 (NO2 group) or pure air (control group) for 24 successive hours in exposure chambers. After completion of the exposure sequence, the ciliary activity in the trachea was examined by a photoelectric method, the mucociliary transport velocity in the trachea by an endoscopic method and epithelial permeability of the trachea to fluorescein isothiocyanate-dextrans (FD-70s; molecular weight: 70,000 daltons) by an in vitro tracheal sac method. In the NO2 group, all epithelial defence functions, including ciliary activity, mucociliary transport velocity and epithelial permeability were significantly inferior to those in the control group. Although there was considerable overlap in the parameters examined between the two groups, approximately two-thirds of the animals were susceptible to 24-h exposure to 3 ppm of NO2. Dysfunction of both the junctional barrier and the mucociliary system could allow easier entry of allergen molecules to the airway parenchyma, where immunocomponent cells exist. NO2 might be involved to some extent in the clinical manifestation of airway allergic disorders through epithelial dysfunction.