Expression of the proapoptotic protein Bax is reduced in bronchial mucous cells of asthmatic subjects

Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2008 Jun;294(6):L1102-9. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00424.2007. Epub 2008 Apr 4.


The present studies were designed to determine whether our findings in mice showing that the Bcl-2-associated protein X (Bax), which plays a role in the resolution of allergen-induced mucous cell metaplasia, can be applied to asthma in humans. Immunostaining of autopsy tissues from mild and severe asthmatic subjects showed a significant reduction in the percentage of Bax-positive mucous cells compared with those from nonasthmatic controls. To exclude the possibility that postmortem changes may have affected Bax expression, Bax mRNA levels in airway epithelial cells obtained from nonsmoking asthmatic subjects were compared with those from nonasthmatic controls. Because the number of cells obtained by bronchial brushings is limited, we developed a robust preamplification procedure of cDNA before quantitative real-time PCR to allow detection of 100 gene targets from limited sample size, even when it was prepared from partially degraded RNA. cDNA was prepared by reverse transcription from RNA isolated from bronchial epithelial cells obtained by bronchial brushings from well-characterized subjects without lung disease and from subjects with mild asthma. Quantitative analysis showed that Bax mRNA levels were significantly reduced in samples obtained from asthma patients compared with nonasthma controls. Furthermore, Bax mRNA levels were reduced when primary airway epithelial cells from 10 individuals were treated in culture with the T helper 2 cytokine IL-13. These studies show that Bax expression is reduced in airway epithelial cells of even mild asthmatic subjects and suggest that restoring Bax expression may provide a clinical approach for restoring the normal numbers of epithelial cells and reduced mucous hypersecretion in asthma.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / pathology
  • Asthma / physiopathology*
  • Autopsy
  • Bronchi / pathology
  • Bronchi / physiopathology*
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-13 / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-9 / biosynthesis*
  • Mucin 5AC
  • Mucins / biosynthesis
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Respiratory Mucosa / pathology
  • Respiratory Mucosa / physiopathology*
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein / biosynthesis*


  • IL9 protein, human
  • Interleukin-13
  • Interleukin-9
  • MUC5AC protein, human
  • Muc5ac protein, mouse
  • Mucin 5AC
  • Mucins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein