Calcitonin gene-related peptide-immunoreactive cells were identified within the epithelium of distal conducting airways in the human fetus and infant. Several peptides and amines, including calcitonin, have been identified previously within a specific population of airway epithelial cells. These cells, referred to as pulmonary neuroendocrine cells, are postulated to be airway chemoreceptors responsible for changes in ventilation and perfusion in response to changes in airway gas composition. Calcitonin gene-related peptide immunoreactive cells could be identified throughout the period of development studies (20 weeks gestation to 3 months of age), but were present in only limited numbers in less than 50% of individuals (n=23). In contrast, large numbers of calcitonin gene-related peptide immunoreactive cells were identified in 100% of infants (1-3 months, n=5) with bronchopulmonary dysplasia. The differential processing of mRNA transcribed from the calcitonin gene in neural and non-neural tissue suggests that calcitonin, rather than calcitonin gene-related peptide, is the primary product of translation in pulmonary neuroendocrine cells. However, considering the potent vasodilatory and bronchoconstrictive effects of calcitonin gene-related peptide, its presence in pulmonary neuroendocrine cells, even in small amounts, may be important in controlling pulmonary vaso- and/or bronchomotor tone. The presence of large numbers of calcitonin gene-related peptide immunoreactive cells in infants with bronchopulmonary dysplasia suggests that calcitonin gene-related peptide may be one further agent contributing to the pulmonary pathophysiology seen in this disease.
- Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP)
- Development, ontogenetic
- Pulmonary epithelium
- Pulmonary neuroendocrine cells