First published June 1, 1983 - More info
Inhalation of cigarette smoke is known to impair pulmonary mucociliary clearance. Active ion transport by airway epithelium plays an important role in maintaining effective mucociliary clearance by regulating the volume and composition of the airway secretions. To determine the effect of cigarette smoke on airway epithelial ion transport, the electrical properties and transepithelial Na and Cl fluxes were measured in canine tracheal epithelium. In vivo, the inhalation of the smoke from one cigarette acutely and reversibly decreased the electrical potential difference across the tracheal epithelium. In vitro, exposure of the mucosal surface of the epithelium to cigarette smoke decreased the short circuit current and transepithelial resistance. The decrease in short circuit current was due to an inhibition of the rate of Cl secretion with minimal effect on the rate of Na absorption. The effect of cigarette smoke was reversible, was not observed upon exposure of the submucosal surface to smoke, and was most pronounced when secretion was stimulated. The particulate phase of smoke was largely responsible for the inhibitory effect, since filtering the smoke minimized the effect. The effect of cigarette smoke was not prevented by addition of antioxidants to the bathing solutions, suggesting that the inhibition of Cl secretion cannot be entirely attributed to an oxidant mechanism. These results indicate that cigarette smoke acutely inhibits active ion transport by tracheal epithelium, both in vivo and in vitro. This effect may explain, in part, both the abnormal mucociliary clearance and the airway disease observed in cigarette smokers.