Mathematical model of nucleotide regulation on airway epithelia. Implications for airway homeostasis

J Biol Chem. 2008 Sep 26;283(39):26805-19. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M801516200. Epub 2008 Jul 28.


In the airways, adenine nucleotides support a complex signaling network mediating host defenses. Released by the epithelium into the airway surface liquid (ASL) layer, they regulate mucus clearance through P2 (ATP) receptors, and following surface metabolism through P1 (adenosine; Ado) receptors. The complexity of ASL nucleotide regulation provides an ideal subject for biochemical network modeling. A mathematical model was developed to integrate nucleotide release, the ectoenzymes supporting the dephosphorylation of ATP into Ado, Ado deamination into inosine (Ino), and nucleoside uptake. The model also includes ecto-adenylate kinase activity and feed-forward inhibition of Ado production by ATP and ADP. The parameters were optimized by fitting the model to experimental data for the steady-state and transient concentration profiles generated by adding ATP to polarized primary cultures of human bronchial epithelial (HBE) cells. The model captures major aspects of ATP and Ado regulation, including their >4-fold increase in concentration induced by mechanical stress mimicking normal breathing. The model also confirmed the independence of steady-state nucleotide concentrations on the ASL volume, an important regulator of airway clearance. An interactive approach between simulations and assays revealed that feed-forward inhibition is mediated by selective inhibition of ecto-5'-nucleotidase. Importantly, the model identifies ecto-adenylate kinase as a key regulator of ASL ATP and proposes novel strategies for the treatment of airway diseases characterized by impaired nucleotide-mediated clearance. These new insights into the biochemical processes supporting ASL nucleotide regulation illustrate the potential of this mathematical model for fundamental and clinical research.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenine Nucleotides / metabolism*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Homeostasis / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2 / metabolism
  • Respiratory Mechanics / physiology*
  • Respiratory Mucosa / cytology
  • Respiratory Mucosa / physiology*
  • Stress, Mechanical


  • Adenine Nucleotides
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2