Cigarette smoke (CS) is a common environmental irritant and a risk factor for asthma, as it induces as well as aggravates asthmatic attacks. The injured airway epithelial tight junctions (TJs) aggravate asthma. CS can aggravate asthma by activating the transient receptor potential ankyrin A1 (TRPA1) channel and enhancing TJs destruction. Houpo Mahuang decoction (HPMHD) is a classic traditional Chinese prescription for the treatment of asthma. However, its underlying action mechanism is unclear.
The present study aimed to evaluate the effect of HPMHD on the asthma phenotype and the regulation of TRPA1 and TJs in a CS-induced mouse model of aggravated asthma.
Under optimized chromatographic and mass spectrometry conditions, the ultra-high performance liquid chromatography-quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry (UPLC-QTOF-MS) technique was used to detect and analyze the major chemical components of HPMHD. C57BL/6 female mice were randomly divided into seven groups, viz, normal saline (NS) group, ovalbumin (OVA) + CS group, dexamethasone group, HPMHD high-dose group and low-dose groups, n-butanol extract group, and ethyl acetate extract group, with 10 mice in each group. OVA sensitization and challenge, and CS exposure were used to establish the aggravated asthma model. As the main indices to evaluate the protective effect of HPMHD, the eosinophils count in peripheral blood, percentages of inflammatory cells classified and the levels of interleukin (IL)-4, IL-5, IL-13 in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF), airway responsiveness enhanced pause (Penh), and changes in lung histopathology were determined and compared among the groups. The mRNA and protein expression of TRPA1 and TJs in lung tissue was also examined.
Using UPLC-QTOF-MS, the chemical components of HPMHD, including ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, laetrile, and amygdalin amide, were identified by 51 signal peaks. Compared with those in the NS group, the eosinophil number in the peripheral blood and the eosinophils and neutrophils percentages in BALF of the OVA + CS group were remarkably increased. Following the inhalation of 50μl of acetylcholine chloride (ACH) at doses of 25 and 50 mg/mL, the Penh increased significantly (p < 0.01). Moreover, in the OVA + CS group, hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) staining of lung tissue showed a significant number of infiltrated inflammatory cells, increased mucus secretion in the lumen, damaged bronchial mucosa, increased thickness of tracheal wall, and increased score of lung damage (p < 0.01). The IL-4/5/13 levels were also remarkably increased (p < 0.01). The protein as well as gene expression of both ZO-1 and occludin decreased markedly in the lung tissue, while the expression of TRPA1 and claudin-2 was increased (p < 0.05, p < 0.01). Next, the OVA + CS group and the treatment groups were compared. The inflammatory cells, Penh value, and levels of IL-4/5/13 were significantly reduced, and less lung injury was observed in the treatment groups. The gene and protein levels of TRPA1 and TJs were corrected (p < 0.05, p < 0.01); the effects on the HPMHD high-dose and ethyl acetate extract groups were particularly remarkable.
HPMHD reduced airway hyperresponsiveness, inflammatory cell recruitment and Th2 cytokine secretion in CS-induced aggravated asthma mice, in a manner potentially dependent on regulation of the expression of TRPA1 and TJ proteins. Both the n-butanol and ethyl acetate extracts contained the active ingredients, especially the ethyl acetate extract.

Copyright © 2022. Published by Elsevier B.V.