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1.  Glucocorticoid Receptor Interacting Protein-1 Restores Glucocorticoid Responsiveness in Steroid-Resistant Airway Structural Cells 
Glucocorticoid (GC) insensitivity represents a profound challenge in managing patients with asthma. The mutual inhibition of transcriptional activity between GC receptor (GR) and other regulators is one of the mechanisms contributing to GC resistance in asthma. We recently reported that interferon regulatory factor (IRF)-1 is a novel transcription factor that promotes GC insensitivity in human airway smooth muscle (ASM) cells by interfering with GR signaling (Tliba et al., Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol 2008;38:463–472). Here, we sought to determine whether the inhibition of GR function by IRF-1 involves its interaction with the transcriptional co-regulator GR-interacting protein 1 (GRIP-1), a known GR transcriptional co-activator. We here found that siRNA-mediated GRIP-1 depletion attenuated IRF-1–dependent transcription of the luciferase reporter construct and the mRNA expression of an IRF-1–dependent gene, CD38. In parallel experiments, GRIP-1 silencing significantly reduced GR-mediated transactivation activities. Co-immunoprecipitation and GST pull-down assays showed that GRIP-1, through its repression domain, physically interacts with IRF-1 identifying GRIP-1 as a bona fide transcriptional co-activator for IRF-1. Interestingly, the previously reported inhibition of GR-mediated transactivation activities by either TNF-α and IFN-γ treatment or IRF-1 overexpression was fully reversed by increasing cellular levels of GRIP-1. Together, these data suggest that the cellular accumulation of IRF-1 may represent a potential molecular mechanism mediating altered cellular response to GC through the depletion of GRIP-1 from the GR transcriptional regulatory complexes.
PMCID: PMC2809222  PMID: 19805480
glucocorticoid; cytokine; airway smooth muscle; IRF-1; GRIP-1
2.  Bitter Taste Receptor Function in Asthmatic and Nonasthmatic Human Airway Smooth Muscle Cells 
Bitter taste receptors (TAS2Rs) have recently been found to be expressed on human airway smooth muscle (HASM), and their activation results in marked relaxation. These agents have been proposed as a new class of bronchodilators in the treatment of obstructive lung diseases because they act via a different mechanism than β-agonists. The TAS2R signal transduction pathway in HASM has multiple elements that are potentially subject to regulation by inflammatory, genetic, and epigenetic mechanisms associated with asthma. To address this, expression, signaling, and physiologic functions of the three major TAS2Rs (subtypes 10, 14, and 31) on HASM were studied. Transcript expression of these TAS2Rs was not decreased in HASM cells derived from donors with asthma compared with those without asthma (n = 6 from each group). In addition, intracellular calcium ([Ca2+]i) signaling using TAS2R subtype–specific agonists (diphenhydramine, chloroquine, saccharin, and flufenamic acid) was not impaired in the cells derived from donors with asthma, nor was the response to quinine, which activates all three subtypes. HASM cell mechanics measured by magnetic twisting cytometry revealed equivalent TAS2R-mediated relaxation of methacholine-treated cells between the two groups. Human precision-cut lung slices treated with IL-13 caused a decrease in β-agonist (formoterol)-mediated relaxation of carbachol-contracted airways compared with control slices. In contrast, TAS2R-mediated relaxation was unaffected by IL-13. We conclude that TAS2R expression or function is unaffected in HASM cells derived from patients with asthma or the IL-13 inflammatory environment.
PMCID: PMC4068928  PMID: 24219573
receptor; asthma; bronchodilator; β-agonist; bitter taste
3.  Raf-1, Actin Dynamics, and Abelson Tyrosine Kinase in Human Airway Smooth Muscle Cells 
Raf-1 is a serine/threonine protein kinase that has an essential role in cell proliferation. The mechanisms that regulate Raf-1 in airway smooth muscle are not well understood. In this study, treatment with platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) induced spatial redistribution of Raf-1 from the cytoplasm to the periphery of human airway smooth muscle cells. Moreover, a pool of Raf-1 was found in F-actin of human airway smooth muscle cells. Activation with PDGF led to an increase in the association of Raf-1 with cytoskeletal actin. Treatment of cells with the actin polymerization inhibitor latrunculin A (LAT-A), but not the microtubule depolymerizer nocodazole, inhibited the interaction of Raf-1 with actin in response to PDGF activation. Because abelson tyrosine kinase (Abl) is known to specifically regulate actin dynamics in smooth muscle, the role of Abl in modulating the coupling of Raf-1 with actin was also evaluated. Abl knockdown by RNA interference attenuated the association of Raf-1 with actin, which is recovered by Abl rescue. Treatment with LAT-A, but not nocodazole, inhibited the spatial redistribution of Raf-1 during PDGF activation. However, treatment with both LAT-A and nocodazole attenuated smooth muscle cell proliferation. Finally, Abl knockdown attenuated the redistribution of Raf-1 and cell proliferation, which were restored by Abl reexpression. The results suggest a novel mechanism that the interaction of Raf-1 with cytoskeletal actin is critical for Raf-1 redistribution and airway smooth muscle cell proliferation during activation with the growth factor.
PMCID: PMC3604063  PMID: 23087049
Raf-1; actin polymerization; tyrosine kinase; smooth muscle; cell proliferation
4.  Regulation of CD38 Expression in Human Airway Smooth Muscle Cells 
The ADP-ribosyl cyclase activity of CD38 generates cyclic ADP-ribose, a Ca2+–mobilizing agent. In human airway smooth muscle (HASM) cells, TNF-α mediates CD38 expression through mitogen-activated protein kinases and NF-κB and AP-1. The phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase/Akt (PI3K/Akt) pathway is involved in TNF-α signaling and contributes to airway hyperresponsiveness and airway remodeling. We hypothesized that PI3Ks mediate CD38 expression and are involved in the differential induction of CD38 by TNF-α in asthmatic HASM cells. HASM cells were treated with pan-PI3K inhibitors (LY294002 or wortmannin) or class I–selective (GDC0941) or isoform-selective PI3K inhibitors (p110α-PIK-75 and p110β-TGX-221) with or without TNF-α. HASM cells were transfected with a catalytically active form of PI3K or phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) or nontargeting or p110 isoform-targeting siRNAs before TNF-α exposure. CD38 expression and activation of Akt, NF-κB, and AP-1 were determined. LY294002 and wortmannin inhibited TNF-α–induced Akt activation, whereas only LY294002 inhibited CD38 expression. P110 expression caused Akt activation and basal and TNF-α–induced CD38 expression, whereas PTEN expression attenuated Akt activation and CD38 expression. Expression levels of p110 isoforms α, β, and δ were comparable in nonasthmatic and asthmatic HASM cells. Silencing of p110α or -δ, but not p110β, resulted in comparable attenuation of TNF-α–induced CD38 expression in asthmatic and nonasthmatic cells. NF-κB and AP-1 activation were unaltered by the PI3K inhibitors. In HASM cells, regulation of CD38 expression occurs by specific class I PI3K isoforms, independent of NF-κB or AP-1 activation, and PI3K signaling may not be involved in the differential elevation of CD38 in asthmatic HASM cells.
PMCID: PMC3488627  PMID: 22556157
smooth muscle; airway; CD38; PI3 kinase; PI3 kinase isoforms
5.  Trichostatin A Abrogates Airway Constriction, but Not Inflammation, in Murine and Human Asthma Models 
Histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors may offer novel approaches in the treatment of asthma. We postulate that trichostatin A (TSA), a Class 1 and 2 inhibitor of HDAC, inhibits airway hyperresponsiveness in antigen-challenged mice. Mice were sensitized and challenged with Aspergillus fumigatus antigen (AF) and treated with TSA, dexamethasone, or vehicle. Lung resistance (RL) and dynamic compliance were measured, and bronchial alveolar lavage fluid (BALF) was analyzed for numbers of leukocytes and concentrations of cytokines. Human precision-cut lung slices (PCLS) were treated with TSA and their agonist-induced bronchoconstriction was measured, and TSA-treated human airway smooth muscle (ASM) cells were evaluated for the agonist-induced activation of Rho and intracellular release of Ca2+. The activity of HDAC in murine lungs was enhanced by antigen and abrogated by TSA. TSA also inhibited methacholine (Mch)-induced increases in RL and decreases in dynamic compliance in naive control mice and in AF-sensitized and -challenged mice. Total cell counts, concentrations of IL-4, and numbers of eosinophils in BALF were unchanged in mice treated with TSA or vehicle, whereas dexamethasone inhibited the numbers of eosinophils in BALF and concentrations of IL-4. TSA inhibited the carbachol-induced contraction of PCLS. Treatment with TSA inhibited the intracellular release of Ca2+ in ASM cells in response to histamine, without affecting the activation of Rho. The inhibition of HDAC abrogates airway hyperresponsiveness to Mch in both naive and antigen-challenged mice. TSA inhibits the agonist-induced contraction of PCLS and mobilization of Ca2+ in ASM cells. Thus, HDAC inhibitors demonstrate a mechanism of action distinct from that of anti-inflammatory agents such as steroids, and represent a promising therapeutic agent for airway disease.
PMCID: PMC3297166  PMID: 22298527
HDAC; asthma; allergen; mice; trichostatin A
6.  Gi-Coupled γ-Aminobutyric Acid–B Receptors Cross-Regulate Phospholipase C and Calcium in Airway Smooth Muscle 
γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the mammalian central nervous system, and exerts its actions via both ionotropic (GABAA) and metabotropic (GABAB) receptors. Although the functional expression of GABAB receptors coupled to the Gi protein was reported for airway smooth muscle, the role of GABAB receptors in airway responsiveness remains unclear. We investigated whether Gi-coupled GABAB receptors cross-regulate phospholipase C (PLC), an enzyme classically regulated by Gq-coupled receptors in human airway smooth muscle cells. Both the GABAB-selective agonist baclofen and the endogenous ligand GABA significantly increased the synthesis of inositol phosphate, whereas GABAA receptor agonists, muscimol, and 4,5,6,7-tetrahydroisoxazolo[5,4-c]pyridin-3-ol exerted no effect. The baclofen-induced synthesis of inositol phosphate and transient increases in [Ca2+]i were blocked by CGP35348 and CGP55845 (selective GABAB antagonists), pertussis toxin (PTX, which inactivates the Gi protein), gallein (a Gβγ signaling inhibitor), U73122 (an inhibitor of PLC-β), and xestospongin C, an inositol 1,4,5-triphosphate receptor blocker. Baclofen also potentiated the bradykinin-induced synthesis of inositol phosphate and transient increases in [Ca2+]i, which were blocked by CGP35348 or PTX. Moreover, baclofen potentiated the substance P–induced contraction of airway smooth muscle in isolated guinea pig tracheal rings. In conclusion, the stimulation of GABAB receptors in human airway smooth muscle cells rapidly mobilizes intracellular Ca2+ stores by the synthesis of inositol phosphate via the activation of PLC-β, which is stimulated by Gβγ protein liberated from Gi proteins coupled to GABAB receptors. Furthermore, crosstalk between GABAB receptors and Gq-coupled receptors potentiates the synthesis of inositol phosphate, transient increases in [Ca2+]i, and smooth muscle contraction through Gi proteins.
PMCID: PMC3262669  PMID: 21719794
Gi protein; Gβγ; inositol phosphate; phospholipase C; airway smooth muscle
7.  Regulator of G-Protein Signaling–5 Inhibits Bronchial Smooth Muscle Contraction in Severe Asthma 
Severe asthma is associated with fixed airway obstruction attributable to inflammation, copious luminal mucus, and increased airway smooth muscle (ASM) mass. Paradoxically, studies demonstrated that the hypertrophic and hyperplastic ASM characteristic of severe asthma has reduced contractile capacity. We compared the G-protein–coupled receptor (GPCR)–induced Ca2+ mobilization and expression of GPCRs and signaling proteins related to procontractile signaling in ASM derived postmortem from subjects who died of nonrespiratory causes, with cells from subjects who died of asthma. Despite the increased or comparable expression of contraction-promoting GPCRs (bradykinin B2 or histamine H1 and protease-activated receptor 1, respectively) in asthmatic ASM cells relative to cells from healthy donors, asthmatic ASM cells exhibited reduced histamine-induced Ca2+ mobilization and comparable responses to bradykinin and thrombin, suggesting a postreceptor signaling defect. Accordingly, the expression of regulator of G-protein signaling–5 (RGS5), an inhibitor of ASM contraction, was increased in cultured, asthmatic ASM cells and in bronchial smooth muscle bundles of both human subjects with asthma and allergen-challenged mice, relative to those of healthy human subjects or naive mice. The overexpression of RGS5 impaired the release of Ca2+ to thrombin, histamine, and carbachol, and reduced the contraction of precision-cut lung slices to carbachol. These results suggest that increased RGS5 expression contributes to decreased myocyte shortening in severe and fatal asthma.
PMCID: PMC3380291  PMID: 22281988
asthma; bronchial smooth muscle; signal transduction; G-protein–coupled receptors
8.  Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons Impair Function of β2-Adrenergic Receptors in Airway Epithelial and Smooth Muscle Cells 
Incomplete combustion produces a pollutant mixture that includes polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Previous work by the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health (CCCEH) and others linked exposure to PAH with symptoms of asthma and other adverse health effects in young children. Inhaled β2-adrenergic agonists are mainstays in the treatment of reactive airway diseases. These exogenous catecholamines engage membrane-bound β2-adrenergic receptors (β2AR) on airway epithelial and smooth muscle cells to cause airway dilation. We hypothesized that exposure to PAH might similarly interfere with the function of β2AR in airway epithelial or smooth muscle cells, reducing the efficacy of a medication important for the treatment of asthma symptoms. A PAH mixture was devised, based on ambient levels measured prenatally among a cohort of pregnant women participating at the CCCEH. Primary airway epithelial and smooth muscle cells were exposed to varying concentrations of the PAH mixture, and expression, function, and signaling of β2AR were assessed. Murine tracheal epithelial cells and human airway smooth muscle cells, after exposure to a PAH mixture, exhibited reduced expression and function of β2AR. These findings support our hypothesis that environmentally relevant PAHs can impede β2AR-mediated airway relaxation, and suggest a new paradigm where air pollutants not only contribute to the pathogenesis of childhood asthma, but also diminish responsiveness to standard therapy.
PMCID: PMC3262692  PMID: 21617201
polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; β2-adrenergic receptors
9.  Functional Expression of γ–Amino Butyric Acid Transporter 2 in Human and Guinea Pig Airway Epithelium and Smooth Muscle 
γ−Amino butyric acid (GABA) is a primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, and is classically released by fusion of synaptic vesicles with the plasma membrane or by egress via GABA transporters (GATs). Recently, a GABAergic system comprised of GABAA and GABAB receptors has been identified on airway epithelial and smooth muscle cells that regulate mucus secretion and contractile tone of airway smooth muscle (ASM). In addition, the enzyme that synthesizes GABA, glutamic acid decarboxylase, has been identified in airway epithelial cells; however, the mechanism(s) by which this synthesized GABA is released from epithelial intracellular stores is unknown. We questioned whether any of the four known isoforms of GATs are functionally expressed in ASM or epithelial cells. We detected mRNA and protein expression of GAT2 and -4, and isoforms of glutamic acid decarboxylase in native and cultured human ASM and epithelial cells. In contrast, mRNA encoding vesicular GAT (VGAT), the neuronal GABA transporter, was not detected. Functional inhibition of 3H-GABA uptake was demonstrated using GAT2 and GAT4/betaine–GABA transporter 1 (BGT1) inhibitors in both human ASM and epithelial cells. These results demonstrate that two isoforms of GATs, but not VGAT, are expressed in both airway epithelial and smooth muscle cells. They also provide a mechanism by which locally synthesized GABA can be released from these cells into the airway to activate GABAA channels and GABAB receptors, with subsequent autocrine and/or paracrine signaling effects on airway epithelium and ASM.
PMCID: PMC3175560  PMID: 21057105
vesicular γ–amino butyric acid transporter; 3H–γ–amino butyric acid uptake; immunoblot; RT-PCR
10.  Anti-inflammatory Effects of Thiazolidinediones in Human Airway Smooth Muscle Cells 
Airway smooth muscle (ASM) cells have been reported to contribute to the inflammation of asthma. Because the thiazolidinediones (TZDs) exert anti-inflammatory effects, we examined the effects of troglitazone and rosiglitazone on the release of inflammatory moieties from cultured human ASM cells. Troglitazone dose-dependently reduced the IL-1β–induced release of IL-6 and vascular endothelial growth factor, the TNF-α–induced release of eotaxin and regulated on activation, normal T expressed and secreted (RANTES), and the IL-4–induced release of eotaxin. Rosiglitazone also inhibited the TNF-α–stimulated release of RANTES. Although TZDs are known to activate peroxisome proliferator–activated receptor-γ (PPARγ), these anti-inflammatory effects were not affected by a specific PPARγ inhibitor (GW 9662) or by the knockdown of PPARγ using short hairpin RNA. Troglitazone and rosiglitazone each caused the activation of adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK), as detected by Western blotting using a phospho-AMPK antibody. The anti-inflammatory effects of TZDs were largely mimicked by the AMPK activators, 5-amino-4-imidazolecarboxamide ribose (AICAR) and metformin. However, the AMPK inhibitors, Ara A and Compound C, were not effective in preventing the anti-inflammatory effects of troglitazone or rosiglitzone, suggesting that the effects of these TZDs are likely not mediated through the activation of AMPK. These data indicate that TZDs inhibit the release of a variety of inflammatory mediators from human ASM cells, suggesting that they may be useful in the treatment of asthma, and the data also indicate that the effects of TZDs are not mediated by PPARγ or AMPK.
PMCID: PMC3145064  PMID: 20870897
shRNA; anti-inflammatory; PPARγ; IL-1β; TNF-α
11.  β2-Adrenergic Receptor Agonists Modulate Human Airway Smooth Muscle Cell Migration via Vasodilator-Stimulated Phosphoprotein 
Severe asthma manifests as airway remodeling and irreversible airway obstruction, in part because of the proliferation and migration of human airway smooth muscle (HASM) cells. We previously reported that cyclic adenosine monophosphate–mobilizing agents, including β2-adrenergic receptor (β2AR) agonists, which are mainstay of asthma therapy, and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), inhibit the migration of HASM cells, although the mechanism for this migration remains unknown. Vasodilator-stimulated phosphoprotein (VASP), an anticapping protein, modulates the formation of actin stress fibers during cell motility, and is negatively regulated by protein kinase A (PKA)–specific inhibitory phosphorylation at serine 157 (Ser157). Here, we show that treatment with β2AR agonists and PGE2 induces the PKA-dependent phosphorylation of VASP and inhibits the migration of HASM cells. The stable expression of PKA inhibitory peptide and the small interfering (si) RNA-induced depletion of VASP abolish the inhibitory effects of albuterol and PGE2 on the migration of HASM cells. Importantly, prolonged treatment with albuterol prevents the agonist-induced phosphorylation of VASP at Ser157, and reverses the inhibitory effects of albuterol and formoterol, but not PGE2, on the basal and PDGF-induced migration of HASM cells. Collectively, our data demonstrate that β2AR agonists selectively inhibit the migration of HASM cells via a β2AR/PKA/VASP signaling pathway, and that prolonged treatment with albuterol abolishes the inhibitory effect of β-agonists on the phosphorylation of VASP and migration of HASM cells because of β2AR desensitization.
PMCID: PMC3262659  PMID: 22210825
airway hyperresponsiveness; β2-adrenergic receptor desensitization; protein kinase A; albuterol; formoterol
12.  Airway Epithelium Stimulates Smooth Muscle Proliferation 
Communication between the airway epithelium and stroma is evident during embryogenesis, and both epithelial shedding and increased smooth muscle proliferation are features of airway remodeling. Hence, we hypothesized that after injury the airway epithelium could modulate airway smooth muscle proliferation. Fully differentiated primary normal human bronchial epithelial (NHBE) cells at an air–liquid interface were co-cultured with serum-deprived normal primary human airway smooth muscle cells (HASM) using commercially available Transwells. In some co-cultures, the NHBE were repeatedly (×4) scrape-injured. An in vivo model of tracheal injury consisted of gently denuding the tracheal epithelium (×3) of a rabbit over 5 days and then examining the trachea by histology 3 days after the last injury. Our results show that HASM cell number increases 2.5-fold in the presence of NHBE, and 4.3-fold in the presence of injured NHBE compared with HASM alone after 8 days of in vitro co-culture. In addition, IL-6, IL-8, monocyte chemotactic protein (MCP)-1 and, more markedly, matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-9 concentration increased in co-culture correlating with enhanced HASM growth. Inhibiting MMP-9 release significantly attenuated the NHBE-dependent HASM proliferation in co-culture. In vivo, the injured rabbit trachea demonstrated proliferation in the smooth muscle (trachealis) region and significant MMP-9 staining, which was absent in the uninjured control. The airway epithelium modulates smooth muscle cell proliferation via a mechanism that involves secretion of soluble mediators including potential smooth muscle mitogens such as IL-6, IL-8, and MCP-1, but also through a novel MMP-9–dependent mechanism.
PMCID: PMC2742749  PMID: 19151317
remodeling; NHBE; injury; MMP-9; HASM
13.  Interleukin-13 and Interleukin-4 Induce Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Release from Airway Smooth Muscle Cells 
Th2 cytokines induce the release of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) from cultured human airway smooth muscle cells. The objective of this study was to examine the mechanistic basis for IL-4– and IL-13–induced VEGF release and to determine whether genetic differences are responsible for donor-to-donor variability in VEGF release. We measured VEGF mRNA expression by real-time PCR, mRNA stability using actinomycin D, and promoter activity with a VEGF-promoter luciferase reporter construct. We measured IL-4– and IL-13–induced VEGF release in cells from 21 donors by ELISA, genotyped the cells for common single nucleotide polymorphisms in the IL-4Rα (Ile50Val, Ser478Pro, and Gln551Arg) and VEGF (−460T/C, −160C/T, −152G/A, +405C/G and +936 C/T) genes, and stratified the data by IL-4Rα and VEGF genotype. IL-4 and IL-13 increased VEGF release and VEGF mRNA expression. IL-4 also increased mRNA stability but did not affect VEGF promoter activity. There was marked donor-to-donor variability in VEGF release from smooth muscle cells. The presence of Val50, Pro478/Arg551, or the Val50/Pro478/Arg551 IL-4Rα haplotype had little effect on VEGF release. VEGF genotype at +405 or +936 alone had no effect on VEGF release, whereas cells bearing at least one −460C/−152A/+405G VEGF allele had lower release of VEGF in response to IL-13 or IL-4 than cells with other genotypes. Our data suggest that IL-4 and IL-13 mediate their effects on VEGF expression post-transcriptionally and indicate that polymorphisms in the VEGF, but not the IL-4Rα, gene affect VEGF release from smooth muscle cells.
PMCID: PMC2644183  PMID: 16210693
asthma; IL-4Rα; polymorphism; TNFα; mRNA stability

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