Formyl-methionyl-leucyl-phenylalanine (FMLP), a synthetic, acylated tripeptide analogous to bacterial chemotactic factors, has been shown to cause bronchoconstriction in guinea pig, rabbit, and human airways in vitro. To determine whether FMLP causes bronchoconstriction in man in vivo, a preliminary study was undertaken in which five non-smokers (mean age 35 years, FEV1 94% (SEM 5%) predicted) and five smokers (mean age 34 years, FEV1 93% (6%) predicted) inhaled aerosols of FMLP. None of the subjects showed airway hyperresponsiveness to histamine (the provocative concentrations of histamine causing a fall of greater than or equal to 20% in FEV1 (PC20) were over 8 mg/ml). FMLP dissolved in 50% dimethylsulphoxide and 50% saline in concentrations of 0, 0.06, 0.12, 0.25, 0.5, 1.0, 2.0, and 4.0 mg/ml was administered to the subjects by means of a French-Rosenthal dosimeter, FEV1 being recorded after inhalation of each concentration. Dose dependent falls in FEV1 occurred in five non-smokers (geometric mean 1.76, 95% confidence limits 0.87-3.53 mg/ml) and three smokers (0.23, 0.07-0.78 mg/ml), with two smokers not responding by 20% to the highest concentration of FMLP. On a separate day the FMLP dose-response curves were repeated after nebulisation of 500 micrograms of ipratropium bromide. The PC20 FMLP in the responders more than doubled. In six additional normal subjects a histamine inhalation test was performed before and four and 24 hours after inhalation of FMLP. All subjects remained unresponsive to histamine. These results show that FMLP is a potent bronchoconstrictor in some non-asthmatic individuals in vivo and this may be important in bronchoconstriction related to infection in patients with chronic obstructive lung disease.
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