Chronic damage and repair of the bronchial epithelium are features of asthma. We have previously reported that ex vivo stimulation of normal bronchial epithelial cells with epidermal growth factor (EGF), a key factor of epithelial repair, enhances the mechanisms of neutrophil accumulation, thereby promoting neutrophil defences during acute injury but potentially enhancing inflammation in chronic airway diseases. We have now sought to (i) determine whether this EGF-dependent pro-neutrophil activity is increased in asthma, where EGF and its epithelial receptor are over-expressed, and (ii) elucidate some of the mechanisms underlying this asthmatic epithelial-neutrophil interaction. Primary bronchial epithelial cells (PBEC) from healthy subjects, mild asthmatics and moderate-to-severe asthmatics (Mod/Sev) were stimulated with EGF, a model that mimics a repairing epithelium. Conditioned culture media (EGF-CM) were assessed for neutrophil chemotactic and anti-apoptotic activities and inflammatory mediator production. EGF induced the epithelium to produce soluble mediators with neutrophil chemotactic (p<0.001) and pro-survival (p = 0.021) activities which were related to the clinical severity of asthma (trend p = 0.010 and p = 0.009, respectively). This was associated with enhanced IL-6, IL-8, GM-CSF and TNF-α release, and cytokine-neutralising experiments using EGF-CM from Mod/Sev asthmatics demonstrated a role for GM-CSF in neutrophil survival (p<0.001). Pre-treatment of neutrophils with specific inhibitors of the myeloid-restricted class I phosphatidylinositol-3-OH kinase (PI(3)K) isoforms showed that the EGF-CM from Mod/Sev asthmatics depended on the γ (p<0.021) but not δ isoforms, while neutrophil survival required multiple class I PI(3)Ks. The EGF-induced chemotactic, but not pro-survival activity, involved RhoA signaling in neutrophils (p = 0.012). EGF whose activity is upregulated in asthma induces ex vivo the epithelium from asthmatic patients to produce pro-neutrophil activities; these are related to asthma severity and, in moderate-to-severe asthmatics, involves class IB PI(3)Kγ signaling, providing a potential therapeutic target for neutrophilic forms of asthma.
The asthma susceptibility gene, a disintegrin and metalloprotease-33 (ADAM33), is selectively expressed in mesenchymal cells, and the activity of soluble ADAM33 has been linked to angiogenesis and airway remodeling. Transforming growth factor (TGF)-β is a profibrogenic growth factor, the expression of which is increased in asthma, and recent studies show that it enhances shedding of soluble ADAM33. In this study, we hypothesized that TGF-β also affects ADAM33 expression in bronchial fibroblasts in asthma. Primary fibroblasts were grown from bronchial biopsies from donors with and those without asthma, and treated with TGF-β2 to induce myofibroblast differentiation. ADAM33 expression was assessed using quantitative RT-PCR and Western blotting. To examine the mechanisms whereby TGF-β2 affected ADAM33 expression, quantitative methylation-sensitive PCR, chromatin immunoprecipitation, and nuclear accessibility assays were conducted on the ADAM33 promoter. We found that TGF-β2 caused a time- and concentration-dependent reduction in ADAM33 mRNA expression in normal and asthmatic fibroblasts, affecting levels of splice variants similarly. TGF-β2 also induced ADAM33 protein turnover and appearance of a cell-associated C-terminal fragment. TGF-β2 down-regulated ADAM33 mRNA expression by causing chromatin condensation around the ADAM33 promoter with deacetylation of histone H3, demethylation of H3 on lysine-4, and hypermethylation of H3 on lysine-9. However, the methylation status of the ADAM33 promoter did not change. Together, these data suggest that TGF-β2 suppresses expression of ADAM33 mRNA in normal or asthmatic fibroblasts. This occurs by altering chromatin structure, rather than by gene silencing through DNA methylation as in epithelial cells. This may provide a mechanism for fine regulation of levels of ADAM33 expression in fibroblasts, and may self-limit TGF-β2–induced ectodomain shedding of ADAM33.
a disintegrin and metalloprotease-33; myofibroblast; transforming growth factor-β; histone modification
Rationale: Airway mucous cell metaplasia and chronic inflammation are pathophysiological features that influence morbidity and mortality associated with asthma and other chronic pulmonary disorders. Elucidation of the molecular mechanisms regulating mucous metaplasia and hypersecretion provides the scientific basis for diagnostic and therapeutic opportunities to improve the care of chronic pulmonary diseases.
Objectives: To determine the role of the airway epithelial–specific transcription factor NK2 homeobox 1 (NKX2-1, also known as thyroid transcription factor-1 [TTF-1]) in mucous cell metaplasia and lung inflammation.
Methods: Expression of NKX2-1 in airway epithelial cells from patients with asthma was analyzed. NKX2-1+/− gene targeted or transgenic mice expressing NKX2-1 in conducting airway epithelial cells were sensitized to the aeroallergen ovalbumin. In vitro studies were used to identify mechanisms by which NKX2-1 regulates mucous cell metaplasia and inflammation.
Measurements and Main Results: NKX2-1 was suppressed in airway epithelial cells from patients with asthma. Reduced expression of NKX2-1 in heterozygous NKX2-1+/− gene targeted mice increased mucous metaplasia in the small airways after pulmonary sensitization to ovalbumin. Conversely, mucous cell metaplasia induced by aeroallergen was inhibited by expression of NKX2-1 in the respiratory epithelium in vivo. Genome-wide mRNA analysis of lung tissue from ovalbumin-treated mice demonstrated that NKX2-1 inhibited mRNAs associated with mucous metaplasia and Th2-regulated inflammation, including Spdef, Ccl17, and Il13. In vitro, NKX2-1 inhibited SPDEF, a critical regulator of airway mucous cell metaplasia, and the Th2 chemokine CCL26.
Conclusions: The present data demonstrate a novel function for NKX2-1 in a gene network regulating mucous cell metaplasia and allergic inflammation in the respiratory epithelium.
asthma; goblet cell; respiratory epithelium; NK2 homeobox 1
Rationale: Much effort is being made to discover noninvasive biomarkers of chronic airway disease that might enable better management, predict prognosis, and provide new therapeutic targets.
Objectives: To undertake a comprehensive, unbiased proteomic analysis of induced sputum and identify novel noninvasive biomarkers for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Methods: Induced sputum was obtained from patients with COPD with a spectrum of disease severity and from control subjects. Two-dimensional gel electrophoresis and mass spectrometric identification of differentially expressed proteins were first applied to induced sputum from patients with GOLD stage 2 COPD and healthy smoker control subjects. Initial results thus obtained were validated by a combination of immunoassays (Western blotting and ELISA) applied to a large subject cohort. The biomarkers were localized to bronchial mucosa by immunohistochemistry.
Measurements and Main Results: Of 1,325 individual protein spots identified, 37 were quantitatively and 3 qualitatively different between the two groups (P < 0.05%). Forty protein spots were subjected to tandem mass spectrometry, which identified 15 separate protein species. Seven of these were further quantified in induced sputum from 97 individuals. Using this sequential approach, two of these potential biomarkers (apolipoprotein A1 and lipocalin-1) were found to be significantly reduced in patients with COPD when compared with healthy smokers. Their levels correlated with FEV1/FVC, indicating their relationship to disease severity.
Conclusions: A potential role for apolipoprotein A1 and lipocalin-1 in innate defense has been postulated previously; our discovery of their reduction in COPD indicates a deficient innate defense system in airway disease that could explain increased susceptibility to infectious exacerbations.
two-dimensional polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis; induced sputum; proteome; biomarkers; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
The bronchial epithelium is the barrier to the external environment and plays a vital role in protection of the internal milieu of the lung. It functions within the epithelial-mesenchymal trophic unit to control the local microenvironment and help maintain tissue homeostasis. However, in asthma, chronic perturbation of these homeostatic mechanisms leads to alterations in the structure of the airways, termed remodeling. Damage to the epithelium is now recognized to play a key role in driving airway remodeling. We have postulated that epithelial susceptibility to environmental stress and injury together with impaired repair responses results in generation of signals that act on the underlying mesenchyme to propagate and amplify inflammatory and remodeling responses in the submucosa. Many types of challenges to the epithelium, including pathogens, allergens, environmental pollutants, cigarette smoke, and even mechanical forces, can elicit production of mediators by the epithelium, which can be translated into remodeling responses by the mesenchyme. Several important mediators of remodeling have been identified, most notably transforming growth factor-β, which is released from damaged/repairing epithelium or in response to inflammatory mediators, such as IL-13. The cross talk between the epithelium and the underlying mesenchyme to drive remodeling responses is considered in the context of subepithelial fibrosis and potential pathogenetic mechanisms linked to the asthma susceptibility gene, a disintegrin and metalloprotease (ADAM)33.
epithelium; transforming growth factor; fibrosis; ADAM33; angiogenesis
Asthma is an inflammatory disorder of the conducting airways that has strong association with allergic sensitization. The disease is characterized by a polarized Th-2 (T-helper-2)-type T-cell response, but in general targeting this component of the disease with selective therapies has been disappointing and most therapy still relies on bronchodilators and corticosteroids rather than treating underlying disease mechanisms. With the disappointing outcomes of targeting individual Th-2 cytokines or manipulating T-cells, the time has come to re-evaluate the direction of research in this disease. A case is made that asthma has its origins in the airways themselves involving defective structural and functional behaviour of the epithelium in relation to environmental insults. Specifically, a defect in barrier function and an impaired innate immune response to viral infection may provide the substrate upon which allergic sensitization takes place. Once sensitized, the repeated allergen exposure will lead to disease persistence. These mechanisms could also be used to explain airway wall remodelling and the susceptibility of the asthmatic lung to exacerbations provoked by respiratory viruses, air pollution episodes and exposure to biologically active allergens. Variable activation of this epithelial–mesenchymal trophic unit could also lead to the emergence of different asthma phenotypes and a more targeted approach to the treatment of these. It also raises the possibility of developing treatments that increase the lung's resistance to the inhaled environment rather than concentrating all efforts on trying to suppress inflammation once it has become established.
allergen; asthma; inflammation; remodelling; T-cell; virus infection; BHR, bronchial hyper-responsiveness; CT, computed tomography; DC, dendritic cell; ADC, airway DC; EBUS, endobronchial ultrasound; EMTU, epithelial–mesenchymal trophic unit; ETS, environmental tobacco smoke; IFN, interferon; IL, interleukin; IoW, Isle of Wight; LT, leukotriene; mAb, monoclonal antibody; RV, rhinovirus; TGF-β, transforming growth factor-β; Th-2, T-helper-2; TJ, tight junction; TSLP, thymic stromal lymphopoietin
Epidemiological studies have demonstrated adverse health effects of environmental pollution. Diesel exhaust (DE) is a major contributor to particulate matter pollution. DE exposure has been shown to induce a pronounced inflammatory response in the airways, together with an enhanced epithelial expression of cytokines such as IL-8, Gro-α, IL-13 and activation of redox sensitive transcription factors (NFκB, AP-1), and MAP kinases (p38, JNK). The aim of the present investigation was to elucidate the involvement of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signalling pathway in the epithelial response to DE in-vivo.
Immunohistochemical staining was used to quantify the expression of the EGFR, phosphorylated Tyrosine residues, MEK and ERK in the bronchial epithelium of archived biopsies from 15 healthy subjects following exposure to DE (PM10, 300 μg/m3) and air. DE induced a significant increases in the expression of EGFR (p = 0.004) and phosphorylated C-terminal Tyr 1173 (p = 0.02). Other investigated EGFR tyrosine residues, Src related tyrosine (Tyr 416), MEK and ERK pathway were not changed significantly by DE.
Exposure to DE (PM10, 300 μg/m3) caused enhanced EGFR expression and phosphorylation of the tyrosine residue (Tyr 1173) which is in accordance with the previously demonstrated activation of the JNK, AP-1, p38 MAPK and NFkB pathways and associated downstream signalling and cytokine production. No effects were seen on the MEK and ERK pathway suggesting that at the investigated time point (6 hours post exposure) there was no proliferative/differentiation signalling in the bronchial epithelium. The present findings suggest a key role for EGFR in the bronchial response to diesel exhaust.
Rhinoviruses are the major trigger of acute asthma exacerbations and asthmatic subjects are more susceptible to these infections. To investigate the underlying mechanisms of this increased susceptibility, we examined virus replication and innate responses to rhinovirus (RV)-16 infection of primary bronchial epithelial cells from asthmatic and healthy control subjects.
Viral RNA expression and late virus release into supernatant was increased 50- and 7-fold, respectively in asthmatic cells compared with healthy controls. Virus infection induced late cell lysis in asthmatic cells but not in normal cells. Examination of the early cellular response to infection revealed impairment of virus induced caspase 3/7 activity and of apoptotic responses in the asthmatic cultures. Inhibition of apoptosis in normal cultures resulted in enhanced viral yield, comparable to that seen in infected asthmatic cultures. Examination of early innate immune responses revealed profound impairment of virus-induced interferon-β mRNA expression in asthmatic cultures and they produced >2.5 times less interferon-β protein. In infected asthmatic cells, exogenous interferon-β induced apoptosis and reduced virus replication, demonstrating a causal link between deficient interferon-β, impaired apoptosis and increased virus replication. These data suggest a novel use for type I interferons in the treatment or prevention of virus-induced asthma exacerbations.
stations are known to have elevated particulate
matter (PM) loads compared to ambient air. As these particles are
derived from metal-rich sources and transition metals may pose a risk
to health by virtue of their ability to catalyze generation of reactive
oxygen species (ROS), their potential enrichment in underground environments
is a source of concern. Compared to coarse (PM10) and fine
(PM2.5) particulate fractions of underground railway airborne
PM, little is known about the chemistry of the ultrafine (PM0.1) fraction that may contribute significantly to particulate number
and surface area concentrations. This study uses inductively coupled
plasma mass spectrometry and ion chromatography to compare the elemental
composition of size-fractionated underground PM with woodstove, roadwear
generator, and road tunnel PM. Underground PM is notably rich in Fe,
accounting for greater than 40% by mass of each fraction, and several
other transition metals (Cu, Cr, Mn, and Zn) compared to PM from other
sources. Importantly, ultrafine underground PM shows similar metal-rich
concentrations as the coarse and fine fractions. Scanning electron
microscopy revealed that a component of the coarse fraction of underground
PM has a morphology indicative of generation by abrasion, absent for
fine and ultrafine particulates, which may be derived from high-temperature
processes. Furthermore, underground PM generated ROS in a concentration-
and size-dependent manner. This study suggests that the potential
health effects of exposure to the ultrafine fraction of underground
PM warrant further investigation as a consequence of its greater surface
area/volume ratio and high metal content.
Sensitization and exposure to the allergenic fungus Alternaria alternata has been associated with increased risk of asthma and asthma exacerbations. The first cells to encounter inhaled allergens are epithelial cells at the airway mucosal surface. Epithelial barrier function has previously been reported to be defective in asthma. This study investigated the contribution of proteases from Alternaria alternata on epithelial barrier function and inflammatory responses and compared responses of in vitro cultures of differentiated bronchial epithelial cells derived from severely asthmatic donors with those from non-asthmatic controls. Polarised 16HBE cells or air-liquid interface (ALI) bronchial epithelial cultures from non-asthmatic or severe asthmatic donors were challenged apically with extracts of Alternaria and changes in inflammatory cytokine release and transepithelial electrical resistance (TER) were measured. Protease activity in Alternaria extracts was characterised and the effect of selectively inhibiting protease activity on epithelial responses was examined using protease inhibitors and heat-treatment. In 16HBE cells, Alternaria extracts stimulated release of IL-8 and TNFα, with concomitant reduction in TER; these effects were prevented by heat-treatment of the extracts. Examination of the effects of protease inhibitors suggested that serine proteases were the predominant class of proteases mediating these effects. ALI cultures from asthmatic donors exhibited a reduced IL-8 response to Alternaria relative to those from healthy controls, while neither responded with increased thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) release. Only cultures from asthmatic donors were susceptible to the barrier-weakening effects of Alternaria. Therefore, the bronchial epithelium of severely asthmatic individuals may be more susceptible to the deleterious effects of Alternaria.
Rhinovirus (RV) infection is a major cause of asthma exacerbations which may be due to a deficient innate immune response in the bronchial epithelium. We hypothesized that the pleiotropic cytokine, TGF-β, influences interferon (IFN) production by primary bronchial epithelial cells (PBECs) following RV infection. Exogenous TGF-β2 increased RV replication and decreased IFN protein secretion in response to RV or double-stranded RNA (dsRNA). Conversely, neutralizing TGF-β antibodies decreased RV replication and increased IFN expression in response to RV or dsRNA. Endogenous TGF-β2 levels were higher in conditioned media of PBECs from asthmatic donors and the suppressive effect of anti-TGF-β on RV replication was significantly greater in these cells. Basal SMAD-2 activation was reduced when asthmatic PBECs were treated with anti-TGF-β and this was accompanied by suppression of SOCS-1 and SOCS-3 expression. Our results suggest that endogenous TGF-β contributes to a suppressed IFN response to RV infection possibly via SOCS-1 and SOCS-3.