Short palate, lung, and nasal epithelial clone–1 (SPLUNC1) is a protein abundantly expressed by the respiratory epithelium of the proximal lower respiratory tract, a site of great environmental exposure. Previous studies showed that SPLUNC1 exerts antimicrobial effects, regulates airway surface liquid and mucociliary clearance, and suppresses allergic airway inflammation. We studied SPLUNC1 to gain insights into its role in host defense. In the lower respiratory tract, concentrations of SPLUNC1 are high under basal conditions. In models of pneumonia caused by common respiratory pathogens, and in Th1-induced and Th2-induced airway inflammation, SPLUNC1 secretion is markedly reduced. Pathogen-associated molecular patterns and IFN-γ act directly on airway epithelial cells to inhibit SPLUNC1 mRNA expression. Thus, SPLUNC1 is quickly suppressed during infection, in response to an insult on the epithelial surface. These experiments highlight the finely tuned fluctuations of SPLUNC1 in response to exposures in the respiratory tract, and suggest that the loss of SPLUNC1 is a crucial feature of host defense across air-breathing animal species.
SPLUNC1; inflammation; innate; immunity; mucosa
VEGF dampens the expression of microRNA-1, which drives inflammation in part via increasing the expression of Mpl.
Asthma, the prototypic Th2-mediated inflammatory disorder of the lung, is an emergent disease worldwide. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a critical regulator of pulmonary Th2 inflammation, but the underlying mechanism and the roles of microRNAs (miRNAs) in this process have not been defined. Here we show that lung-specific overexpression of VEGF decreases miR-1 expression in the lung, most prominently in the endothelium, and a similar down-regulation occurs in lung endothelium in Th2 inflammation models. Intranasal delivery of miR-1 inhibited inflammatory responses to ovalbumin, house dust mite, and IL-13 overexpression. Blocking VEGF inhibited Th2-mediated lung inflammation, and this was restored by antagonizing miR-1. Using mRNA arrays, Argonaute pull-down assays, luciferase expression assays, and mutational analysis, we identified Mpl as a direct target of miR-1 and showed that VEGF controls the expression of endothelial Mpl during Th2 inflammation via the regulation of miR-1. In vivo knockdown of Mpl inhibited Th2 inflammation and indirectly inhibited the expression of P-selectin in lung endothelium. These experiments define a novel VEGF–miR-1–Mpl–P-selectin effector pathway in lung Th2 inflammation and herald the utility of miR-1 and Mpl as potential therapeutic targets for asthma.
Inhibiting allergic airway inflammation is the goal of therapy in persistent asthma. Administration of medication via the airways delivers drug directly to the site of inflammation and avoids systemic side effects, but often fails to modulate systemic features of asthma. We have shown that Th1 cells, through production of IFN-γ, inhibit many Th2-induced effector functions that promote disease. Using a newly generated mouse that expresses IFN-γR only on airway epithelial cells, we show that the airway epithelium controls a range of pathological responses in asthma. IFN-γ acting only through the airway epithelium inhibits mucus, chitinases and eosinophilia, independent of Th2 cell activation. IFN-γ signaling through the airway epithelium inhibits eosinophil generation in the bone marrow, indicating that signals on the airway mucosal surface can regulate distant functions to inhibit disease. IFN-γ actions through the airway epithelium will limit airway obstruction and inflammation and may be therapeutic in refractory asthma.
Exaggerated levels of VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) are present in persons with asthma, but the role(s) of VEGF in normal and asthmatic lungs has not been defined. We generated lung-targeted VEGF165 transgenic mice and evaluated the role of VEGF in T-helper type 2 cell (TH2)-mediated inflammation. In these mice, VEGF induced, through IL-13–dependent and –independent pathways, an asthma-like phenotype with inflammation, parenchymal and vascular remodeling, edema, mucus metaplasia, myocyte hyperplasia and airway hyper-responsiveness. VEGF also enhanced respiratory antigen sensitization and TH2 inflammation and increased the number of activated DC2 dendritic cells. In antigen-induced inflammation, VEGF was produced by epithelial cells and preferentially by TH2 versus TH1 cells. In this setting, it had a critical role in TH2 inflammation, cytokine production and physiologic dysregulation. Thus, VEGF is a mediator of vascular and extravascular remodeling and inflammation that enhances antigen sensitization and is crucial in adaptive TH2 inflammation. VEGF regulation may be therapeutic in asthma and other TH2 disorders.
The reticulon protein Nogo-B is highly expressed in the lungs, and its loss augments lung inflammation in part as a result of decreased expression of the antiinflammatory protein PLUNC.
Nogo-B is a member of the reticulon family of proteins (RTN-4B) that is highly expressed in lung tissue; however, its function remains unknown. We show that mice with Th2-driven lung inflammation results in a loss of Nogo expression in airway epithelium and smooth muscle compared with nonallergic mice, a finding which is replicated in severe human asthma. Mice lacking Nogo-A/B (Nogo-KO) display an exaggerated asthma-like phenotype, and epithelial reconstitution of Nogo-B in transgenic mice blunts Th2-mediated lung inflammation. Microarray analysis of lungs from Nogo-KO mice reveals a marked reduction in palate lung and nasal clone (PLUNC) gene expression, and the levels of PLUNC are enhanced in epithelial Nogo-B transgenic mice. Finally, transgenic expression of PLUNC into Nogo-KO mice rescues the enhanced asthmatic-like responsiveness in these KO mice. These data identify Nogo-B as a novel protective gene expressed in lung epithelia, and its expression regulates the levels of the antibacterial antiinflammatory protein PLUNC.
Mucous cell metaplasia is induced in response to harmful insults and provides front-line protection to clear the airway of toxic substances and cellular debris. In chronic airway diseases mucous metaplasia persists and results in airway obstruction and contributes significantly to morbidity and mortality. Mucus hypersecretion involves increased expression of mucin genes, and increased mucin production and release. The past decade has seen significant advances in our understanding of the molecular mechanisms by which these events occur. Inflammation stimulates epidermal growth factor receptor activation and IL-13 to induce both Clara and ciliated cells to transition into goblet cells through the coordinated actions of FoxA2, TTF-1, SPDEF, and GABAAR. Ultimately, these steps lead to up-regulation of MUC5AC expression, and increased mucin in goblet cell granules that fuse to the plasma membrane through actions of MARCKS, SNAREs, and Munc proteins. Blockade of mucus in exacerbations of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease may affect morbidity. Development of new therapies to target mucus production and secretion are now possible given the advances in our understanding of molecular mechanisms of mucous metaplasia. We now have a greater incentive to focus on inhibition of mucus as a therapy for chronic airway diseases.
mucus; goblet cell; airway epithelium; asthma; COPD
We previously demonstrated that vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) expression in the murine lung increases local CD11c+ MHCII+ DC number and activation. In this study, employing a multicolor flow cytometry, we report increases in both myeloid (mDC) and plasmacytoid (pDC) DC in the lungs of VEGF transgenic (tg) compared to WT mice. Lung pDC from VEGF tg mice exhibited higher levels of activation with increased expression of MHCII and costimulatory molecules. As VEGF tg mice display an asthma-like phenotype and lung mDC play a critical role in asthmatic setting, studies were undertaken to further characterize murine lung mDC. Evaluations of sorted mDC from VEGF tg lungs demonstrated a selective upregulation of cathepsin K, MMP-8, -9, -12, and -14, and chemokine receptors as compared to those obtained from WT control mice. They also had increased VEGFR2 but downregulated VEGFR1 expression. Analysis of chemokine and regulatory cytokine expression in these cells showed an upregulation of macrophage chemotactic protein-3 (MCP-3), thymus-expressed chemokine (TECK), secondary lymphoid organ chemokine (SLC), macrophage-derived chemokine (MDC), IL-1β, IL-6, IL-12 and IL-13. The antigen (Ag) OVA-FITC uptake by lung DC and the migration of Ag-loaded DC to local lymph nodes were significantly increased in VEGF tg mice compared to WT mice. Thus, VEGF may predispose the lung to inflammation and/or repair by activating local DC. It regulates lung mDC expression of innate immunity effector molecules. The data presented here demonstrate how lung VEGF expression functionally affects local mDC for the transition from the innate response to a Th2-type inflammatory response.
Rodent; lung; inflammation; dendritic cells; cell activation
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways. Type 2 T helper (Th) cell–dominated inflammation in the lung is a hallmark of asthma. Src homology 2 domain–containing protein tyrosine phosphatase (SHP)-1 is a negative regulator in the signaling pathways of many growth factor and cytokine receptors. However, a direct role of SHP-1 in the IL-4/IL-13 signaling pathway has not been established. In this study, we sought to define the function of SHP-1 in the lung by characterizing the pulmonary inflammation of viable motheaten (mev) mice, and to investigate the molecular mechanisms involved. Pulmonary histology, physiology, and cytokine expression of mev mice were analyzed to define the nature of the inflammation, and the gene-deletion approach was used to identify critical molecules involved. In mev mice, we observed spontaneous Th2-like inflammatory responses in the lung, including eosinophilia, mucus metaplasia, airway epithelial hypertrophy, pulmonary fibrosis, and increased airway resistance and airway hyperresponsiveness. The pulmonary phenotype was accompanied by up-regulation of Th2 cytokines and chemokines. Selective deletion of IL-13 or signal transducer and activator of transcription 6, key genes in the Th2 signaling pathway, significantly reduced, but did not completely eliminate, the inflammation in the lung. These findings suggest that SHP-1 plays a critical role in regulating the IL-4/IL-13 signaling pathway and in maintaining lung homeostasis.
Src homology 2 domain–containing protein tyrosine phosphatase-1; protein tyrosine phosphatase; motheaten mouse; type 2 T helper cell inflammation; lung
Mouse breast regression protein 39 (BRP-39; Chi3l1) and its human homologue YKL-40 are chitinase-like proteins that lack chitinase activity. Although YKL-40 is expressed in exaggerated quantities and correlates with disease activity in asthma and many other disorders, the biological properties of BRP-39/YKL-40 have only been rudimentarily defined. We describe the generation and characterization of BRP-39−/− mice, YKL-40 transgenic mice, and mice that lack BRP-39 and produce YKL-40 only in their pulmonary epithelium. Studies of these mice demonstrated that BRP-39−/− animals have markedly diminished antigen-induced Th2 responses and that epithelial YKL-40 rescues the Th2 responses in these animals. The ability of interleukin13 to induce tissue inflammation and fibrosis was also markedly diminished in the absence of BRP-39. Mechanistic investigations demonstrated that BRP-39 and YKL-40 play an essential role in antigen sensitization and immunoglobulin E induction, stimulate dendritic cell accumulation and activation, and induce alternative macrophage activation. These proteins also inhibit inflammatory cell apoptosis/cell death while inhibiting Fas expression, activating protein kinase B/AKT, and inducing Faim 3. These studies establish novel regulatory roles for BRP-39/YKL-40 in the initiation and effector phases of Th2 inflammation and remodeling and suggest that these proteins are therapeutic targets in Th2- and macrophage-mediated disorders.
Sensory neurons in the airways are finely tuned to respond to reactive chemicals threatening airway function and integrity. Nasal trigeminal nerve endings are particularly sensitive to oxidants formed in polluted air and during oxidative stress as well as to chlorine, which is frequently released in industrial and domestic accidents. Oxidant activation of airway neurons induces respiratory depression, nasal obstruction, sneezing, cough, and pain. While normally protective, chemosensory airway reflexes can provoke severe complications in patients affected by inflammatory airway conditions like rhinitis and asthma. Here, we showed that both hypochlorite, the oxidizing mediator of chlorine, and hydrogen peroxide, a reactive oxygen species, activated Ca2+ influx and membrane currents in an oxidant-sensitive subpopulation of chemosensory neurons. These responses were absent in neurons from mice lacking TRPA1, an ion channel of the transient receptor potential (TRP) gene family. TRPA1 channels were strongly activated by hypochlorite and hydrogen peroxide in primary sensory neurons and heterologous cells. In tests of respiratory function, Trpa1–/– mice displayed profound deficiencies in hypochlorite- and hydrogen peroxide–induced respiratory depression as well as decreased oxidant-induced pain behavior. Our results indicate that TRPA1 is an oxidant sensor in sensory neurons, initiating neuronal excitation and subsequent physiological responses in vitro and in vivo.
TLRs have been studied extensively in the context of pathogen challenges, yet their role in the unchallenged lung is unknown. Given their direct interface with the external environment, TLRs in the lungs are prime candidates to respond to air constituents, namely particulates and oxygen. The mechanism whereby the lung maintains structural integrity in the face of constant ambient exposures is essential to our understanding of lung disease. Emphysema is characterized by gradual loss of lung elasticity and irreversible airspace enlargement, usually in the later decades of life and after years of insult, most commonly cigarette smoke. Here we show Tlr4–/– mice exhibited emphysema as they aged. Adoptive transfer experiments revealed that TLR4 expression in lung structural cells was required for maintaining normal lung architecture. TLR4 deficiency led to the upregulation of what we believe to be a novel NADPH oxidase (Nox), Nox3, in lungs and endothelial cells, resulting in increased oxidant generation and elastolytic activity. Treatment of Tlr4–/– mice or endothelial cells with chemical NADPH inhibitors or Nox3 siRNA reversed the observed phenotype. Our data identify a role for TLR4 in maintaining constitutive lung integrity by modulating oxidant generation and provide insights into the development of emphysema.
Mucous hypersecretion is a major cause of airway obstruction in asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cystic fibrosis. EGFR ligands and IL-13 are known to stimulate mucous induction, but the detailed mechanisms of epithelial mucous regulation have not been well defined. In this issue of the JCI, Tyner et al. show, in a mouse model of chronic mucous hypersecretion, that ciliated epithelial cell apoptosis is inhibited by EGFR activation, allowing IL-13 to stimulate the differentiation of these cells into goblet cells, which secrete mucus. In defining this coordinated, 2-step process, we can consider the therapeutic effects of blocking mucous production. This begs the question, Is it possible to reduce airway obstruction in chronic lung disease by inhibiting EGFR activation and/or by inhibiting IL-13?
CD4 T helper (Th) type 1 and Th2 cells have been identified in the airways of asthmatic patients. Th2 cells are believed to contribute to pathogenesis of the disease, but the role of Th1 cells is not well defined. In a mouse model, we previously reported that transferred T cell receptor–transgenic Th2 cells activated in the respiratory tract led to airway inflammation with many of the pathologic features of asthma, including airway eosinophilia and mucus production. Th1 cells caused inflammation with none of the pathology associated with asthma. In this report, we investigate the role of Th1 cells in regulating airway inflammation. When Th1 and Th2 cells are transferred together into recipient mice, there is a marked reduction in airway eosinophilia and mucus staining. To address the precise role of Th1 cells, we asked (i), Are Th2-induced responses inhibited by interferon (IFN)-γ? and (ii) Can Th1 cells induce eosinophilia and mucus in the absence of IFN-γ? In IFN-γ receptor−/− recipient mice exposed to inhaled antigen, the inhibitory effects of Th1 cells on both airway eosinophilia and mucus production were abolished. In the absence of IFN-γ receptor signaling, Th1 cells induced mucus but not eosinophilia. Thus, we have identified new regulatory pathways for mucus production; mucus can be induced by Th2 and non-Th2 inflammatory responses in the lung, both of which are inhibited by IFN-γ. The blockade of eosinophilia and mucus production by IFN-γ likely occurs through different inhibitory pathways that are activated downstream of Th2 cytokine secretion and require IFN-γ signaling in tissue of recipient mice.
asthma; T helper cell type 1; T helper cell type 2; IFN-γ; mucus
The molecular mechanisms that contribute to an eosinophil-rich airway inflammation in asthma are unclear. A predominantly T helper 2 (Th2)-type cell response has been documented in allergic asthma. Here we show that mice deficient in the p50 subunit of nuclear factor (NF)- κB are incapable of mounting eosinophilic airway inflammation compared with wild-type mice. This deficiency was not due to a block in T cell priming or proliferation in the p50−/− mice, nor was it due to a defect in the expression of the cell adhesion molecules VCAM-1 and ICAM-1 that are required for the extravasation of eosinophils into the airways. The major defects in the p50−/− mice were the lack of production of the Th2 cytokine interleukin 5 and the chemokine eotaxin, which are crucial for proliferation and for differentiation and recruitment, respectively, of eosinophils into the asthmatic airway. Additionally, the p50−/− mice were deficient in the production of the chemokines macrophage inflammatory protein (MIP)-1α and MIP-1β that have been implicated in T cell recruitment to sites of inflammation. These results demonstrate a crucial role for NF-κB in vivo in the expression of important molecules that have been implicated in the pathogenesis of asthma.
allergic inflammation; eosinophils; nuclear factor κB; interleukin 5; eotaxin
Airway inflammation is believed to stimulate mucus production in asthmatic patients. Increased mucus secretion is an important clinical symptom and contributes to airway obstruction in asthma. Activated CD4 Th1 and Th2 cells have both been identified in airway biopsies of asthmatics but their role in mucus production is not clear. Using CD4 T cells from mice transgenic for the OVA-specific TCR, we studied the role of Th1 and Th2 cells in airway inflammation and mucus production. Airway inflammation induced by Th2 cells was comprised of eosinophils and lymphocytes; features found in asthmatic patients. Additionally, there was a marked increase in mucus production in mice that received Th2 cells and inhaled OVA, but not in mice that received Th1 cells. However, OVA-specific Th2 cells from IL-4–deficient mice were not recruited to the lung and did not induce mucus production. When this defect in homing was overcome by administration of TNF-α, IL-4 −/− Th2 cells induced mucus as effectively as IL-4 +/+ Th2 cells. These studies establish a role for Th2 cells in mucus production and dissect the effector functions of IL-4 in these processes. These data suggest that IL-4 is crucial for Th2 cell recruitment to the lung and for induction of inflammation, but has no direct role in mucus production.