Human bronchial smooth muscle cells (HBSMC) may regulate airway inflammation by secreting cytokines, chemokines and growth factors. The neurotrophins, including nerve growth factor (NGF), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and neurotrophin-3 (NT-3), have been shown to be elevated during airway inflammation and evoke airway hyperresponsiveness. We studied if HBSMC may be a source of NGF, BDNF and NT-3, and if so, how inflammatory cytokines may influence their production.
Basal and cytokine (IL-1β, IFN-γ, IL-4)-stimulated neurotrophin expression in HBSMC cultured in vitro was quantified. The mRNA expression was quantified by real-time RT-PCR and the protein secretion into the cell culture medium by ELISA.
We observed a constitutive NGF, BDNF and NT-3 expression. IL-1β stimulated a transient increase of NGF, while the increase of BDNF had a later onset and was more sustained. COX-inhibitors (indomethacin and NS-398) markedly decreased IL-1β-stimulated secretion of BDNF, but not IL-1β-stimulated NGF secretion. IFN-γ increased NGF expression, down-regulated BDNF expression and synergistically enhanced IL-1β-stimulated NGF expression. In contrast, IL-4 had no effect on basal NGF and BDNF expression, but decreased IL-1β-stimulated NGF expression. NT-3 was not altered by the tested cytokines.
Taken together, our data indicate that, in addition to the contractile capacity, HBSMC can express NGF, BDNF and NT-3. The expression of these neurotrophins may be differently regulated by inflammatory cytokines, suggesting a dynamic interplay that might have a potential role in airway inflammation.