Introduction: The muscarinic M3 receptor antagonist, tiotropium, has a bronchodilatory effect on asthma patients. Additionally, tiotropium inhibits allergic airway inflammation and remodeling in a murine asthma model. However, the underlying mechanisms of this M3 receptor antagonist remain unclear. Therefore, we investigated the effect of muscarinic M3 receptor blockage on M2 macrophage development during allergic airway inflammation. Methods: BALB/c mice were sensitized and challenged with ovalbumin to develop a murine model of allergic airway inflammation mimicking human atopic asthma. During the challenge phase, mice were treated with or without tiotropium. Lung cells were isolated 24 h after the last treatment and gated using CD68-positive cells. Relm-α and Arginase-1 (Arg1) (M2 macrophage markers) expression was determined by flow cytometry. Mouse bone marrow mononuclear cell-derived macrophages (mBMMacs) and human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs)-derived macrophages were stimulated with IL-4 and treated with a muscarinic M3 receptor antagonist in vitro. Results: The total cells, eosinophils, and IL-5 and IL-13 levels in BAL fluids were markedly decreased in the asthma group treated with tiotropium compared to that in the untreated asthma group. The Relm-α and Arg1 expression in macrophages was reduced considerably in the asthma group treated with tiotropium compared to that in the untreated asthma group, suggesting that the development of M2 macrophages was inhibited by muscarinic M3 receptor blockage. Additionally, muscarinic M3 receptor blockage in vitro significantly inhibited M2 macrophage development in both mBMMacs- and PBMCs-derived macrophages. Conclusions: Muscarinic M3 receptor blockage inhibits M2 macrophage development and prevents allergic airway inflammation. Moreover, muscarinic M3 receptors might be involved in the differentiation of immature macrophages into M2 macrophages.

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