Neuropeptide tyrosine (NPY), a newly discovered peptide known to modulate blood vessel diameter and smooth muscle tone, has been found in many mammalian organs. Its distribution is similar to that of sympathetic nerve fibres and NPY immunoreactivity has been found in noradrenergic ganglion cells. In a study of the respiratory tract of four mammalian species--man, cat, guinea pig, and rat--NPY immunoreactivity has been localised to nerve fibres. NPY immunoreactive nerve fibres were found in the adventitia of blood vessels and in the airway smooth muscle. Its distribution was strikingly similar to that of sympathetic nerve fibres as demonstrated by dopamine-beta-hydroxylase antibodies. The mean (SD) concentrations of NPY in the guinea pig respiratory tract, as determined by radioimmunoassay of tissue extracts, were: upper trachea 3.3 (0.7), lower trachea 2.0 (0.5), and major bronchus 3.5 (1.1) pmol/g. During developmental studies in man NPY immunoreactive nerve fibres were first observed at 20 weeks' gestation in the trachea, and fibres gradually extended down into the intrapulmonary airways after birth. NPY immunoreactive nerve fibres have a distribution and developmental pattern similar to that of sympathetic nerve fibres in the respiratory tract. The finding of NPY immunoreactivity in nerve fibres in the mammalian respiratory tract adds to the growing number of peptides having potent biological actions found in this organ, and shows that the lung possesses a rich peptidergic system, which may influence pulmonary function.
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