Effects of respiratory syncytial virus infection and major basic protein derived from eosinophils in pulmonary alveolar epithelial cells (A549)

Cell Biol Int. 2011 May;35(5):467-74. doi: 10.1042/CBI20100255.


RSV (respiratory syncytial virus)-induced pneumonia and bronchiolitis may be associated with hyperresponsive conditions, including asthma. Eosinophilic proteins such as MBP (major basic protein) may also be associated with the pathophysiology of asthma. To elucidate the roles of RSV infection and MBP in the pathogenesis of pneumonia with hyperresponsiveness, we investigated the effects of RSV infection and MBP on A549 (alveolar epithelial) cells. CPE (cytopathic effects) in A549 cells were observed by microscopy. Apoptosis and cell death was evaluated by flow cytometric analysis and modified MTT [3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide] assay. We also measured 15 types of cytokines and chemokines in A549 cell supernatants. Although RSV alone did not affect the CPE of A549, high concentrations of MBP resulted in cell death within 24 h. Combinations of RSV and MBP synergistically induced cell death. In A549 cells infected with RSV alone, the release of GM-CSF (granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor) was significantly enhanced compared with control cells (no infection). In the cells treated with MBP alone, the production of IL (interleukin)-2, 4, 5, 7, 10, 12, 13, 17, IFN (interferon)-γ, GM-CSF, G-CSF (granulocyte colony-stimulating factor) and MIP (macrophage inflammatory protein)-1β was significantly increased compared with control cells. Notably, the levels of GM-CSF and IL-17 in RSV/MBP-treated cells were significantly higher than those treated with MBP alone. These results suggest that MBP synergistically enhanced the release of various cytokines/chemokines and the cell death of RSV-infected A549 cells, indicating that MBP may be closely associated with the pathophysiology of allergic reactions in bronchiolitis/pneumonia due to RSV.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Cell Survival
  • Chemokines / immunology
  • Eosinophil Major Basic Protein / immunology*
  • Eosinophils / immunology
  • Epithelial Cells / pathology
  • Epithelial Cells / virology
  • Humans
  • Pneumonia / etiology
  • Pneumonia / immunology*
  • Pneumonia / pathology
  • Pneumonia / virology*
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / cytology
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / pathology*
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / virology*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / complications*


  • Chemokines
  • Eosinophil Major Basic Protein