IL-4 receptor signaling in Clara cells is required for allergen-induced mucus production

J Immunol. 2005 Sep 15;175(6):3746-52. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.175.6.3746.


Excessive mucus production is an important pathological feature of asthma. The Th2 cytokines IL-4 and IL-13 have both been implicated in allergen-induced mucus production, inflammation, and airway hyperreactivity. Both of these cytokines use receptors that contain the IL-4Ralpha subunit, and these receptors are expressed on many cell types in the lung. It has been difficult to determine whether allergen-induced mucus production is strictly dependent on direct effects of IL-4 and IL-13 on epithelial cells or whether other independent mechanisms exist. To address this question, we used a cell type-specific inducible gene-targeting strategy to selectively disrupt the IL-4Ralpha gene in Clara cells, an airway epithelial cell population that gives rise to mucus-producing goblet cells. Clara cell-specific IL-4Ralpha-deficient mice and control mice developed similar elevations in serum IgE levels, airway inflammatory cell numbers, Th2 cytokine production, and airway reactivity following OVA sensitization and challenge. However, compared with control mice, Clara cell-specific IL-4Ralpha-deficient mice were nearly completely protected from allergen-induced mucus production. Because only IL-13 and IL-4 are thought to signal via IL-4Ralpha, we conclude that direct effects of IL-4 and/or IL-13 on Clara cells are required for allergen-induced mucus production in the airway epithelium.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Asthma / metabolism
  • Asthma / pathology
  • Interleukin-13 / immunology
  • Interleukin-4 / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Mucus / immunology
  • Mucus / metabolism*
  • Ovalbumin / administration & dosage
  • Ovalbumin / immunology
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / deficiency
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / immunology
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / physiology*
  • Respiratory Mucosa / cytology
  • Respiratory Mucosa / immunology
  • Respiratory Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / immunology*


  • Allergens
  • Il4ra protein, mouse
  • Interleukin-13
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Interleukin-4
  • Ovalbumin