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Monday, March 8, 2010

Stress and asthma

In this issue of JACI, Haczku and Panettieri review the evidence for the involvement of stress in asthma and find that it suggests that psychosocial stressors are important in asthma morbidity.

Chronic psychosocial stress has been correlated with asthma severity and exacerbations, as well as overall immunocompromise that leads to or worsens disease. The authors developed a mouse model of social stress in order to mimic socially disruptive stressors experienced by humans. They showed that mice exposed to allergen and persistent social stress had increased airway reactivity and lowered Th2 cell sensitivity to glucocorticoids. In their mouse model, Haczku and Panettieri noted that the social stress did not result in immunosuppression, but instead, activated innate and Th2 immune responses that resulted in sustained increases in circulating corticosterone. They suggest that this may lead to corticosteroid insensitivity and perpetuate airway inflammation.

Altered function, reduced expression and impaired translocation of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) are among the possible mechanisms for steroid insensitivity proposed by Haczku and Panettieri. They suggest that GR may be down-regulated by agonistic ligands, or NF-κB transrepression of gene transcription. Their own studies reported increased expression of NF-κB concomitant with decreased GR nuclear translocation, DNA binding and GR expression.

Bias toward inflammatory cytokine stimulation by innate immune cells is another mechanism the authors discuss. Mice exposed to stress alone produced macrophage and dendritic cell secretion of IL-13 associated IgG1 and TARC as well as TNF-α and IL-6.

Finally, the authors talk about the role of structural cell responses to glucocorticoids, citing recent findings of reduced surfactant protein D (SP-D) in patients with chronic lung disease. Corticosteroids greatly increase the amounts of SP-D, which is known to have immunosuppressive effects, and they suggest that corticosteroid insensitivity of epithelial cells in chronic lung pathology is responsible for the impairment of this protective mechanism.

Haczku and Panettieri propose new approaches to circumvent corticosteroid non-response. They have shown that corticosteroid insensitive airway smooth muscle and whole lung tissue are still responsive to I κB and MAP kinase inhibitors, reducing cytokine secretion. This may be a possible pathway for therapeutic intervention in asthma patients who are steroid-insensitive.

We asked Dr. Haczku some questions about the implications of this review:

JACI: Since the evidence is pointing to a multiple-scale physiologic response, would this problem lend itself to a systems analysis approach to coordinate effective therapy?
Dr. Haczku: Susceptibility to the detrimental effects of chronic stress exposure on the neuro-endocrine, immune and hematopoietic systems as well as on various target organs maybe genetically regulated, organ- and cell type specific. A systems analysis approach therefore to disease assessment and effective therapy would be very beneficial.
JACI: Do you think kinase inhibitors would be primary or add-on therapy for patients with corticosteroid-resistant lung disease?
Dr. Haczku: Kinase inhibitors once developed would form a useful second line (add-on) therapy for patients with corticosteroid resistant chronic inflammatory diseases.

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