IL-13 and epidermal growth factor receptor have critical but distinct roles in epithelial cell mucin production

Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2007 Feb;36(2):244-53. doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2006-0180OC. Epub 2006 Sep 15.


Overproduction of mucus is a central feature of asthma. The cytokine, IL-13, epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), and transcription factor, FOXA2, have each been implicated in mucus production, but the mechanistic relationships between these molecules are not yet well understood. To address this, we established a primary normal human bronchial epithelial cell culture system with IL-13-induced mucus production and gene transcript expression changes similar to those seen in vivo in mice. IL-13 did not stimulate release of the EGFR ligand, transforming growth factor (TGF)-alpha. However, there was constitutive release of TGF-alpha from normal human bronchial epithelial cells, and inhibition of TGF-alpha or EGFR reduced both constitutive and IL-13-induced mucin production. Microarray analysis revealed that IL-13 and the EGFR pathway appear to have almost completely independent effects on transcript expression. IL-13 induced a relatively small set of transcripts, including several novel transcripts that might play a role in pathogenesis of allergic airway disease. In contrast, EGFR activity had extensive effects, including altered expression of many transcripts associated with cell metabolism, survival, transcription, and differentiation. One of the few common effects of IL-13 and EGFR signaling was decreased expression of FOXA2, which is known to prevent mucus production. We conclude that the IL-13 and EGFR pathways make critical but quite distinct contributions to gene regulation in airway epithelial cells, and that both pathways affect expression of the key transcription factor, FOXA2, a known regulator of mucus production.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Intranasal
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology*
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects*
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • ErbB Receptors / antagonists & inhibitors
  • ErbB Receptors / immunology
  • ErbB Receptors / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 3-beta / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-13 / administration & dosage
  • Interleukin-13 / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Metaplasia
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mucin 5AC
  • Mucins / biosynthesis*
  • Mucins / drug effects*
  • Mucins / genetics
  • Mucins / metabolism
  • Mucus / drug effects
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Respiratory System / cytology
  • Respiratory System / drug effects


  • FOXA2 protein, human
  • Interleukin-13
  • MUC5AC protein, human
  • Muc5ac protein, mouse
  • Mucin 5AC
  • Mucins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 3-beta
  • ErbB Receptors