Expression of IL-4/IL-13 receptors in differentiating human airway epithelial cells

Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2010 Nov;299(5):L681-93. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00422.2009. Epub 2010 Aug 20.


IL-4 and IL-13 elicit several important responses in airway epithelium including chemokine secretion and mucous secretion that may contribute to airway inflammation, cell migration, and differentiation. These cytokines have overlapping but not identical effector profiles likely due to shared subunits in their receptor complexes. These receptors are variably described in epithelial cells, and the relative expression, localization, and function of these receptors in differentiated and repairing epithelial cells are not clear. We examined IL-4/IL-13 receptor expression and localization in primary airway epithelial cells collected from normal human lungs and grown under conditions yielding both undifferentiated and differentiated cells inclusive of basal, goblet, and ciliated cell phenotypes. Gene expression of the IL-4Rα, IL-2Rγc, IL-13Rα1, and IL-13Rα2 receptor subunits increased with differentiation, but different patterns of localization and protein abundance were seen for each subunit based on both differentiation and the cell subtypes present. Increased expression of receptor subunits observed in more differentiated cells was associated with more substantial functional responses to IL-4 stimulation including increased eotaxin-3 expression and accelerated migration after injury. We demonstrate substantial differences in IL-4/IL-13 receptor subunit expression and responsiveness to IL-4 based on the extent of airway epithelial cell differentiation and suggest that these differences may have functional consequences in airway inflammation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology*
  • Cell Movement
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chemokine CCL26
  • Chemokines, CC / genetics
  • Chemokines, CC / metabolism
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology
  • Epithelial Cells / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Protein Subunits / genetics
  • Protein Subunits / metabolism
  • Receptors, Interleukin-13 / genetics
  • Receptors, Interleukin-13 / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Interleukin-4 / genetics
  • Receptors, Interleukin-4 / metabolism*
  • Respiratory Mucosa / cytology*
  • Respiratory Mucosa / physiology
  • Stress, Mechanical


  • CCL26 protein, human
  • Chemokine CCL26
  • Chemokines, CC
  • Protein Subunits
  • Receptors, Interleukin-13
  • Receptors, Interleukin-4