Chlorine Triggers Protective Nerve Receptor

Apr 09, 2008
Chlorine Triggers Protective Nerve Receptor
Airway nerve cells exposed to chlorine. Bright color indicates excitation of some nerve cells.

Inhaling chlorine triggers a nerve receptor that protects healthy people by inducing sneezing, coughing, and irritation, but can cause major problems for people with asthma and other respiratory problems, Yale School of Medicine researchers report today in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Prior to this study it was thought that chlorine and other oxidants induced pain and inflammation only through tissue injury. But the Yale team observed that mice lacking the receptor TRPA1 were insensitive to exposure to chlorine—which is used in industrial synthesis, for disinfection of drinking water and swimming pools, and in household bleach. Interestingly, the receptor is the same one triggered by pungent mustard and noxious chemicals in cigarette smoke.

“We show that chlorine activates a specific receptor, TRPA1, in pain-sensing nerve endings in the airways,” said corresponding author, Sven-Eric Jordt, assistant professor of pharmacology. “We identified a population of neurons that fire in response to chlorine exposure, inducing pain and irritation, and narrowing airway passages—probably to protect the lung from chlorine damage.”

The problem with this response, he said, is that people whose respiratory systems already are compromised by asthma or congestion from colds and allergies then have a hypersensitive response to chemicals—their lungs are already doing what the brain is telling the respiratory system to do to protect itself.

“In these patients chlorine and other TRPA1 activators can trigger constriction of the bronchial pathways, and cause pain and discomfort in the airways,” Jordt said.

The silver lining, said Jordt, is that the study points to TRPA1 as a promising new target for the development of new drugs to suppress coughs and relieve pain and inflammation.

The lead authors are Bret Bessac and Michael Sivula of Yale. The study was conducted in collaboration with the laboratory of Lauren Cohn in the pulmonary section of Internal Medicine at Yale and funded by grants from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the National Institutes of Health.

Source: Yale University

Explore further: Serotonin neuron subtypes: New insights could inform SIDS understanding, depression treatment

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

People finding their 'waze' to once-hidden streets

11 hours ago

When the people whose houses hug the narrow warren of streets paralleling the busiest urban freeway in America began to see bumper-to-bumper traffic crawling by their homes a year or so ago, they were baffled.

Identity theft victims face months of hassle

11 hours ago

As soon as Mark Kim found out his personal information was compromised in a data breach at Target last year, the 36-year-old tech worker signed up for the retailer's free credit monitoring offer so he would ...

Observers slam 'lackluster' Lima climate deal

11 hours ago

A carbon-curbing deal struck in Lima on Sunday was a watered-down compromise where national intransigence threatened the goal of a pact to save Earth's climate system, green groups said.

Your info has been hacked. Now what do you do?

12 hours ago

Criminals stole personal information from tens of millions of Americans in data breaches this past year. Of those affected, one in three may become victims of identity theft, according to research firm Javelin. ...

New Bond script stolen in Sony hack

12 hours ago

An "early version" of the screenplay for the new James Bond film was the latest victim of a massive hacking attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, its producers said in a statement on their website Sunday.

Ag-tech could change how the world eats

17 hours ago

Investors and entrepreneurs behind some of the world's newest industries have started to put their money and tech talents into farming - the world's oldest industry - with an audacious agenda: to make sure there is enough ...

Recommended for you

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.