The neuropeptides substance P and neurokinin A are present in sensory airway nerves. Their effect on airway calibre was compared in six healthy non-smoking subjects and six asthmatic subjects. On separate days increasing concentrations (from 10(-9) to 10(-6) mol/ml) of each neuropeptide were administered by nebuliser and the airway response measured as change in specific airway conductance (sGaw). Substance P and neurokinin A caused no change in sGaw in the healthy subjects. Inhalation of substance P up to the highest concentration of 10(-6) mol/ml caused no change in sGaw in the asthmatic subjects. Neurokinin A, however, caused bronchoconstriction with a mean fall in sGaw of 48% (SEM 12%) after 5 x 10(-7) mol/ml. The onset of bronchoconstriction was rapid, but sGaw had returned to baseline values within one hour in all but one patient.
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