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1.  Chemosensory Functions for Pulmonary Neuroendocrine Cells 
The mammalian airways are sensitive to inhaled stimuli, and airway diseases are characterized by hypersensitivity to volatile stimuli, such as perfumes, industrial solvents, and others. However, the identity and function of the cells in the airway that can sense volatile chemicals remain uncertain, particularly in humans. Here, we show that solitary pulmonary neuroendocrine cells (PNECs), which are morphologically distinct and physiologically undefined, might serve as chemosensory cells in human airways. This conclusion is based on our finding that some human PNECs expressed members of the olfactory receptor (OR) family in vivo and in primary cell culture, and are anatomically positioned in the airway epithelium to respond to inhaled volatile chemicals. Furthermore, apical exposure of primary-culture human airway epithelial cells to volatile chemicals decreased levels of serotonin in PNECs, and the led to the release of the neuropeptide calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) to the basal medium. These data suggest that volatile stimulation of PNECs can lead to the secretion of factors that are capable of stimulating the corresponding receptors in the lung epithelium. We also found that the distribution of serotonin and neuropeptide receptors may change in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, suggesting that increased PNEC-dependent chemoresponsiveness might contribute to the altered sensitivity to volatile stimuli in this disease. Together, these data indicate that human airway epithelia harbor specialized cells that respond to volatile chemical stimuli, and may help to explain clinical observations of odorant-induced airway reactions.
PMCID: PMC4068934  PMID: 24134460
olfactory receptor; serotonin; neuropeptide; asthma; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
2.  Rho-Associated Protein Kinase Inhibition Enhances Airway Epithelial Basal-Cell Proliferation and Lentivirus Transduction 
The identification of factors that regulate airway epithelial cell proliferation and differentiation are essential for understanding the pathophysiology of airway diseases. Rho-associated protein kinases (ROCKs) are downstream effector proteins of RhoA GTPase that direct the functions of cell cytoskeletal proteins. ROCK inhibition with Y27632 has been shown to enhance the survival and cloning of human embryonic stem cells and pluripotent cells in other tissues. We hypothesized that Y27632 treatment exerts a similar effect on airway epithelial basal cells, which function as airway epithelial progenitor cells. Treatment with Y27632 enhanced basal-cell proliferation in cultured human tracheobronchial and mouse tracheal epithelial cells. ROCK inhibition accelerated the maturation of basal cells, characterized by a diminution of the cell size associated with cell compaction and the expression of E-cadherin at cell–cell junctions. Transient treatment of cultured basal cells with Y27632 did not affect subsequent ciliated or mucous cell differentiation under air–liquid interface conditions, and allowed for the initial use of lower numbers of human or mouse primary airway epithelial cells than otherwise possible. Moreover, the use of Y27632 during lentivirus-mediated transduction significantly improved posttransduction efficiency and the selection of a transduced cell population, as determined by reporter gene expression. These findings suggest an important role for ROCKs in the regulation of proliferation and maturation of epithelial basal cells, and demonstrate that the inhibition of ROCK pathways using Y27632 provides an adjunctive tool for the in vitro genetic manipulation of airway epithelial cells by lentivirus vectors.
PMCID: PMC3824057  PMID: 23713995
airway epithelial cells; lentivirus; apoptosis; proliferation; ciliogenesis
3.  IL-17A Induces Signal Transducers and Activators of Transcription–6–Independent Airway Mucous Cell Metaplasia 
Mucous cell metaplasia is a hallmark of asthma, and may be mediated by signal transducers and activators of transcription (STAT)–6 signaling. IL-17A is increased in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid of patients with severe asthma, and IL-17A also increases mucus production in airway epithelial cells. Asthma therapeutics are being developed that inhibit STAT6 signaling, but the role of IL-17A in inducing mucus production in the absence of STAT6 remains unknown. We hypothesized that IL-17A induces mucous cell metaplasia independent of STAT6, and we tested this hypothesis in two murine models in which increased IL-17A protein expression is evident. In the first model, ovalbumin (OVA)–specific D011.10 Th17 cells were adoptively transferred into wild-type (WT) or STAT6 knockout (KO) mice, and the mice were challenged with OVA or PBS. WT-OVA and STAT6 KO-OVA mice demonstrated increased airway IL-17A and IL-13 protein expression and mucous cell metaplasia, compared with WT-PBS or STAT6 KO-PBS mice. In the second model, WT, STAT1 KO, STAT1/STAT6 double KO (DKO), or STAT1/STAT6/IL-17 receptor A (RA) triple KO (TKO) mice were challenged with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) or mock viral preparation, and the mucous cells were assessed. STAT1 KO-RSV mice demonstrated increased airway mucous cell metaplasia compared with WT-RSV mice. STAT1 KO-RSV and STAT1/STAT6 DKO-RSV mice also demonstrated increased mucous cell metaplasia, compared with STAT1/STAT6/IL17RA TKO-RSV mice. We also treated primary murine tracheal epithelial cells (mTECs) from WT and STAT6 KO mice. STAT6 KO mTECs showed increased periodic acid–Schiff staining with IL-17A but not with IL-13. Thus, asthma therapies targeting STAT6 may increase IL-17A protein expression, without preventing IL-17A–induced mucus production.
PMCID: PMC3727878  PMID: 23392574
asthma; mucous cell metaplasia; IL-17A; STAT6; IL-13
4.  Sex Hormone–Dependent Regulation of Cilia Beat Frequency in Airway Epithelium 
Previous studies have demonstrated a female disadvantage in airway diseases, such as asthma and bronchiectasis. The basis for this sex disparity is unknown. We hypothesized that the female sex hormone, progesterone (P4), inhibits functions of the normal airway mucociliary apparatus. P4 receptor (PR) expression was evaluated in human lung and cultured primary human airway epithelial cells isolated from male and female lung transplant donors. PR expression was restricted to the proximal region of the cilia of airway epithelia, and was similar in men and women. Expression of isoform PR-B was more abundant than PR-A in cells from both sexes. Airway epithelial cell exposure to P4 decreased cilia beat frequency (CBF) by 42.3% (±7.2). Inhibition of CBF was prevented by coadministration of P4 with the active form of estrogen, 17β-estradiol, or the PR antagonist, mifepristone. P4 inhibition was time and dose dependent, with a significant decrease by 8 hours and maximal effect at 24 hours, accompanied by translocation of PR from the cilia to the nucleus. Inhibition of cilia beat was also prevented by treatment of cells with actinomycin D, suggesting that CBF inhibition is a transcriptionally mediated event. Together, these findings indicate that sex hormones influence the function of a key component of the mucociliary apparatus. These mechanisms may contribute to the sex disparity present in airway diseases and provide therapeutic targets for the treatment of these debilitating airway diseases.
PMCID: PMC3359952  PMID: 22033264
cilia; progesterone receptor; cilia beat frequency; sex disparity; lung disease
5.  Effect of Polarized Release of CXC-Chemokines from Wild-Type and Cystic Fibrosis Murine Airway Epithelial Cells 
The respiratory epithelium lining the airway relies on mucociliary clearance and a complex network of inflammatory mediators to protect the lung. Alterations in the composition and volume of the periciliary liquid layer, as occur in cystic fibrosis (CF), lead to impaired mucociliary clearance and persistent airway infection. Moreover, the respiratory epithelium releases chemoattractants after infection, inciting airway inflammation. However, characterizing the inflammatory response of primary human airway epithelial cells to infection can be challenging because of genetic heterogeneity. Using well-characterized, differentiated, primary murine tracheal cells grown at an air–liquid interface, which provides an in vitro polarized epithelial model, we compared inflammatory gene expression and secretion in wild-type and ΔF508 CF airway cells after infection with Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The expression of several CXC-chemokines, including macrophage inflammatory protein–2, small inducible cytokine subfamily member 2, lipopolysaccharide-induced chemokine, and interferon-inducible cytokine–10, was markedly increased after infection, and these proinflammatory mediators were asymmetrically released from the airway epithelium, predominantly from the basolateral surface. Equal amounts of CXC-chemokines were released from wild-type and CF cells. Secreted mediators were concentrated in the thin, periciliary fluid layer, and the dehydrated apical microenvironment of CF airway epithelial cells amplified the inflammatory signal, potentially resulting in high chemokine concentration gradients across the epithelium. Consistent with this observation, the enhanced chemotaxis of wild-type neutrophils was detected in CF airway epithelial cultures, compared with wild-type cells. These data suggest that P. aeruginosa infection of the airway epithelium induces the expression and polarized secretion of CXC-chemokines, and the increased concentration gradient across the CF airway leads to an exaggerated inflammatory response.
PMCID: PMC3266059  PMID: 20639462
inflammation; chemotaxis; chemokine; airway; epithelium
6.  Polarized Alloantigen Presentation by Airway Epithelial Cells Contributes to Direct CD8+ T Cell Activation in the Airway 
Activated T lymphocytes are abundant in the airway during lung allograft rejection. Based on respiratory viral studies, it is the current paradigm that T cells cannot divide in the airway, and that their accumulation in the lumen of the respiratory tract is the exclusive result of recruitment from other sites, such as mediastinal lymph nodes. Here, we show that CD8+ T cell activation and proliferation can occur in the airway after orthotopic lung transplantation. We also demonstrate that airway epithelium expresses major histocompatibility class I predominantly on the apical surface, both in vitro and in vivo, and initiates CD8+ T cell responses in a polarized fashion, favoring luminal activation. Our data identify a unique site for CD8+ T cell activation after lung transplantation, and suggest that attenuating these responses may provide a clinically relevant target.
PMCID: PMC3135837  PMID: 21653906
lung transplantation; mouse; airway epithelium; CD8+ T cell
7.  Temporal Relationship between Primary and Motile Ciliogenesis in Airway Epithelial Cells 
Cilia are traditionally classified as motile or primary. Motile cilia are restricted to specific populations of well-differentiated epithelial cells, including those in the airway, brain ventricles, and oviducts. Primary cilia are nonmotile, solitary structures that are present in many cell types, and often have sensory functions such as in the retina and renal tubules. Primary cilia were also implicated in the regulation of fundamental processes in development. Rare depictions of primary cilia in embryonic airways led us to hypothesize that primary cilia in airway cells are temporally related to motile ciliogenesis. We identified primary cilia in undifferentiated, cultured airway epithelial cells from mice and humans and in developing lungs. The solitary cilia in the airways express proteins considered unique to primary cilia, including polycystin-1 and polycystin-2. A temporal analysis of airway epithelial cell differentiation showed that cells with primary cilia acquire markers of motile ciliogenesis, suggesting that motile ciliated cells originate from primary ciliated cells. Whereas motile ciliogenesis requires Foxj1, primary ciliogenesis does not, and the expression of Foxj1 was associated with a loss of primary cilia, just before the appearance of motile cilia. Primary cilia were not found in well-differentiated airway epithelial cells. However, after injury, they appear in the luminal layer of epithelium and in basal cells. The transient nature of primary cilia, together with the temporal and spatial patterns of expression in the development and repair of airway epithelium, suggests a critical role of primary cilia in determining outcomes during airway epithelial cell differentiation.
PMCID: PMC2993092  PMID: 20118219
cilia; differentiation, Foxj1; PKD1; PKD2
8.  Maintenance of Airway Epithelium in Acutely Rejected Orthotopic Vascularized Mouse Lung Transplants 
Lung transplantation remains the only therapeutic option for many patients suffering from end-stage pulmonary disease. Long-term success after lung transplantation is severely limited by the development of bronchiolitis obliterans. The murine heterotopic tracheal transplantation model has been widely used for studies investigating pathogenesis of obliterative airway disease and immunosuppressive strategies to prevent its development. Despite its utility, this model employs proximal airway that lacks airflow and is not vascularized. We have developed a novel model of orthotopic vascularized lung transplantation in the mouse, which leads to severe vascular rejection in allogeneic strain combinations. Here we characterize differences in the fate of airway epithelial cells in nonimmunosuppressed heterotopic tracheal and vascularized lung allograft models over 28 days. Up-regulation of growth factors that are thought to be critical for the development of airway fibrosis and interstitial collagen deposition were similar in both models. However, while loss of airway epithelial cells occurred in the tracheal model, airway epithelium remained intact and fully differentiated in lung allografts, despite profound vascular rejection. Moreover, we demonstrate expression of the anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-2 in airway epithelial cells of acutely rejected lung allografts. These findings suggest that in addition to alloimmune responses, other stimuli may be required for the destruction of airway epithelial cells. Thus, the model of vascularized mouse lung transplantation may provide a new and more physiologic experimental tool to study the interaction between immune and nonimmune mechanisms affecting airway pathology in lung allografts.
PMCID: PMC2219553  PMID: 17717320
lung transplantation; mouse; airway epithelium; Bcl-2
9.  A Transgenic FOXJ1-Cre System for Gene Inactivation in Ciliated Epithelial Cells 
Ciliated airway epithelial cells are critical for mucosal barrier function, including host defense against pathogens. This cell population is often the primary target and thereby the first line of defense against many common respiratory viruses. It is also the precursor for mucous cells and thereby promotes mucociliary clearance of infectious and other noxious agents. Cells with motile cilia in other organs (e.g., brain and reproductive organs) may also have roles in development and reproduction. However, definitive proof of ciliated cell function is hampered by the lack of strategies to specifically target this cell population for loss of function in vivo. To this end, cell type–specific gene promoters have been combined with the Cre/LoxP system to disrupt genes in airway and alveolar epithelial cell populations expressing surfactant protein C (SP-C) or Clara cell secretory protein (CCSP). By contrast, an analogous system to disrupt gene function in ciliated airway epithelial cells was still needed. Here we report the generation and analysis of mouse lines with a FOXJ1 promoter driving the Cre recombinase and show that this system mediates genomic recombination specifically in ciliated cells. The pattern of recombination recapitulates endogenous FOXJ1 promoter function, being restricted to ciliated cells present in pulmonary airways as well as choroid plexus, ependyma, oviduct, and testis. This transgenic mouse system thereby offers a new strategy for specific knockouts of genes in ciliated cells. It should prove extremely useful for defining ciliated cell function in airway mucosal immunity as well as development and reproduction.
PMCID: PMC1899335  PMID: 17255554
pulmonary airways; mucosal immunity; FOXJ1 transcription factor; cell-specific gene knockouts; Cre/LoxP system

Results 1-9 (9)