Nebulized caffeine alleviates airway hyperresponsiveness in a murine asthma model

Jeffrey M. Loube, Sarah Gidner, Jarrett Venezia, Hurley Ryan, Enid R. Neptune, Wayne Mitzner, Nicholas M. Dalesio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The clinical definition of "difficult asthma"has expanded recently to include an ever-growing subset of patients with symptoms that cannot be controlled by conventional means, forcing the medical community to develop innovative therapeutics. Beneficial effects of coffee for subjects with asthma, primarily the effect of methylxanthine components, have long been described. Methylxanthines, including theophylline and caffeine, inhibit phosphodiesterases and downstream cAMP signaling to prevent mast cell degranulation while promoting immunomodulation (Peleman RA, Kips JC, Pauwels RA. Clin Exp Allergy 28: 53-56, 1998; Deshpande DA, Wang WCH, McIlmoyle EL, Robinett KS, Schillinger RM, An SS, Sham JSK, Liggett SB. Nat Med 16: 1299-1304, 2010). Caffeine is also a bitter taste receptor agonist, binding to taste-sensing type 2 receptors (TAS2R) before releasing calcium to hyperpolarize airway smooth muscle membranes, inducing bronchodilation (Workman AD, Palmer JN, Adappa ND, Cohen NA. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep 15: 72, 2015; Devillier P, Naline E, Grassin-Delyle S. Pharmacol Ther 155: 11-21, 2015). Theophylline is conventionally used to treat asthma, whereas, according to the literature, the dosage required for orally administered caffeine has yielded modest improvement (Alfaro TM, Monteiro RA, Cunha RA, Cordeiro CR. Clin Respir J 12: 1283-1294, 2018). We sought to determine whether aerosolization of ultrafine caffeine particles (2.5-4 μm) directly to the lungs of susceptible A/J mice challenged with methacholine would improve pulmonary function via forced oscillation technique. In addition, we assessed whether nebulization of caffeine leads to changes in lung pathophysiology and bronchoalveolar lavage cell profiles. We found that mice that received aerosolized caffeine had statistically significant decreases in maximum airway resistance [6.3 vs. 3.9 cmH2O s/mL at 62.5 mg/mL caffeine; confidence interval (CI) -4.3, -0.4; P 0.02] and significant delays in the time required to reach maximum resistance compared with that of controls (64.7 vs. 172.1 sec at 62.5 mg/mL caffeine, CI 96.0, 118.9; P < 0.0001). Nebulized caffeine yielded a consistent effect on airway hyperresponsiveness at a range of doses without evidence of significant pathology relative to vehicle control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L500-L507
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2023


  • TAS2R
  • airway hyperresponsiveness
  • asthma
  • bitter taste receptors
  • caffeine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology (medical)
  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cell Biology


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