Background: B7-H2 is a ligand for the inducible costimulator (ICOS). The aim of this study was to examine the expression and function of B7-H2 in human airway smooth muscle (ASM) cells and compare them with those of CD40 or OX40 ligand (OX40L).
Methods: Expression of B7-H2, CD40 and OX40L in ASM cells and their respective counterparts in T cells was analyzed by RT-PCR or flow cytometry. The modulating effect of polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid (poly I:C) on expression of B7-H2, CD40 and OX40L was also examined. The function of these three molecules was evaluated by virtue of adhesion of anti-CD3-activated T cells, IL-6 and IL-8 production and DNA synthesis.
Results: ASM cells constitutively expressed B7-H2, CD40 and OX40L that mediated adhesion of activated T cells expressing ICOS, CD40L and OX40. ASM cells responded to poly I:C with upregulated expression of B7-H2, CD40 and OX40L and displayed enhanced adhesion of activated T cells. Functional analysis performed on untreated ASM cells showed that engagement of B7-H2 with ICOS-Ig clearly induced DNA synthesis, whereas that of CD40 or OX40L with trimeric CD40L or OX40-Ig greatly increased IL-6 and IL-8 production. These responses were enhanced in poly I:C-treated ASM cells.
Conclusions: The data demonstrate that ASM cells express functionally active B7-H2, CD40 and OX40L and suggest that B7-H2-dependent signaling may play an active role in a proliferative response rather than in cytokine and chemokine production. In addition, the modulation of B7-H2, CD40 and OX40L expression and function by poly I:C may have important implications for the function of virus-infected ASM cells.