Changes in nasal mucosal innervation in horses with grass sickness

D Prince, Brendan Corcoran, I. G. Mayhew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

REASONS FOR PERFORMING STUDY: Equine grass sickness is a dysautonomia characterised by widespread destruction of autonomic ganglia, resulting in the clinical signs of dysphagia, constipation, profuse sweating, tachycardia, rhinitis sicca and high mortality rate. Rhinitis sicca is a common finding in horses with the chronic form and we have postulated that alterations in autonomic innervation of the nasal mucosa might underlie this clinical presentation. OBJECTIVES: In this study, the expression and distribution of nerve fibres immunoreactive for calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), substance P (SP), the general neuronal marker protein gene-product 9.5 (PGP 9.5; ubiquitin) and the intermediate neurofilaments (PAN-N; neurorfilaments L, M and H) in the nasal mucosa of normal horses (n = 10) and horses with EGS (n = 18; acute n = 8, subacute n = 3, chronic n = 7) was assessed. METHODS: Innervation density and distribution was investigated in the different groups using standard immunohistochemical techniques. RESULTS: Significant differences were noted when comparing the density and distribution of nerve fibres immunoreactive for PGP 95 and PAN-N, with PGP 95 consistently giving better staining in all groups and at all sites in the nasal mucosa. An apparent increase in the density of innervation was noted for acute vs. normal cases. A significant reduction in the density of innervation was noted only with PAN-N when comparing normal horses and acute cases with the chronic group (P < 0.05). CGRP and SP immunoreactive nerve fibres were typically most abundant in the epithelial and subepithelial layers, but the quality of staining and nerve fibre density was greater for SP, achieving significant difference in several comparisons. The density of innervation for SP was significantly reduced in the chronic group compared to the normal and acute groups (P < 0.01). A significant decrease was noted for CGRP only for the acute and chronic groups (P<0.05). CONCLUSIONS: These results demonstrate a reduction in the expression of the sensory neuropeptides in nasal mucosal innervation as a consequence of equine dysautonomia, and may underlie the clinical presentation of rhinitis sicca noted with this disease. POTENTIAL RELEVANCE: Nasal biopsy may be of use in antemortem diagnosis of grass sickness and identification of mucosal denervation; and might also be useful in the treatment of rhinitis in EGS cases.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-6
Number of pages7
JournalEquine Veterinary Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2003

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Acute Disease
  • Animals
  • Autonomic Nervous System Diseases
  • Biological Markers
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide
  • Chronic Disease
  • Horse Diseases
  • Horses
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins
  • Intermediate Filaments
  • Nasal Mucosa
  • Nerve Fibers
  • Rhinitis
  • Substance P
  • Thiolester Hydrolases
  • Ubiquitin Thiolesterase


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