Rationale: Glucocorticoids (GCs) are highly effective in the treatment of asthma. However, some individuals have GC-insensitive asthma.
Objectives: To evaluate the functional response to steroids of bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) cells from sites of airway inflammation from patients with GC-insensitive versus GC-sensitive asthma. As well, to attempt to define the functional role of glucocorticoid receptor (GCR)beta (a splicing variant, and dominant negative inhibitor of, the classic GCRalpha) in controlling GCRalpha nuclear translocation and transactivation at a molecular level.
Methods and measurements: Fiberoptic bronchoscopy with collection of BAL fluid was performed on seven patients with GC-sensitive asthma and eight patients with GC-insensitive asthma. GCRalpha cellular shuttling in response to 10(-6) M dexamethasone treatment and GCRbeta expression were analyzed in BAL cells by immunofluorescence staining. The effects of overexpression and silencing of GCRbeta mRNA on GCRalpha function were assessed.
Main results: Significantly reduced nuclear translocation of GCRalpha in response to steroids was found in BAL cells from patients with GC-insensitive asthma. BAL macrophages from patients with GC-insensitive asthma had significantly increased levels of cytoplasmic and nuclear GCRbeta. It was demonstrated that GCRalpha nuclear translocation and its transactivation properties were proportionately reduced by level of viral transduction of the GCRbeta gene into the DO-11.10 cell line. RNA silencing of GCRbeta mRNA in human BAL macrophages from patients with GC-insensitive asthma resulted in enhanced dexamethasone-induced GCRalpha transactivation.
Conclusions: GC insensitivity is associated with loss of GCRalpha nuclear translocation in BAL cells and elevated GCRbeta, which may inhibit GCRalpha transactivation in response to steroids.