Acute laryngotracheitis in the rat induced by Sendai virus: the influx of six different types of immunocompetent cells into the laryngeal mucosa differs strongly between the subglottic and the glottic compartment.
OBJECTIVES: Acute laryngotracheitis is a disease in which mainly the subglottic area is infected, whereas adjacent parts of the larynx, especially the narrow glottic fold, remain unaffected. The reason for the difference between these two directly adjacent regions is unknown. Therefore, in the present study the influx of dendritic cells, neutrophils, T and B lymphocytes, natural killer cells, and macrophages into the mucosa of different laryngeal compartments was investigated after Sendai virus infection in the rat. The aims were to study both the influx of immunocompetent cells and the adhesion of the pathogen and to correlate them to the different reactions of the laryngeal areas during pseudocroup. METHODS: Acute laryngotracheitis was induced by intranasal application of Sendai virus in brown Norway rats. This virus is exclusively pneumotropic in rodents and belongs to the parainfluenza virus type 1, the main pathogen of acute laryngotracheitis in children. The numbers of dendritic cells, neutrophils, T and B lymphocytes, natural killer cells, and macrophages were determined in the supraglottic, glottic, subglottic, and tracheal mucosa on days 2, 5, 7, and 14 after virus application. Furthermore, the nucleoprotein of the virus and major histocompatibility complex (MHC) Class II expression were detected immunohistologically on the laryngeal epithelium. RESULTS: All cell subsets entered the laryngeal mucosa during inflammation. The highest influx was detected among dendritic cells subglottically. This was accompanied by a strong virus adhesion and MHC Class II expression on the subglottic epithelium. In contrast, only a few immunocompetent cells entered the adjacent glottic mucosa, and on the glottic epithelium staining for virus nucleoprotein and MHC Class II expression was weak. CONCLUSIONS: The inflammatory response of the laryngeal mucosa shows great regional differences in this animal model during experimental viral infection. The response was characterized by a strong subglottic and a weak glottic reaction. A possible reason for this difference might be region-specific viral adhesion on the epithelium of the laryngeal areas, as well as differences in MHC Class II expression. Thus, these data agree with the clinical observation during acute laryngotracheitis and may explain why the subglottic part of the larynx is affected preferentially during pseudocroup. The molecular mechanisms mediating the different reactions await clarification.