Expression profiling identifies Klf15 as a glucocorticoid target that regulates airway hyperresponsiveness

Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2011 Sep;45(3):642-9. doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2010-0369OC. Epub 2011 Jan 21.


Glucocorticoids (GCs), which activate GC receptor (GR) signaling and thus modulate gene expression, are widely used to treat asthma. GCs exert their therapeutic effects in part through modulating airway smooth muscle (ASM) structure and function. However, the effects of genes that are regulated by GCs on airway function are not fully understood. We therefore used transcription profiling to study the effects of a potent GC, dexamethasone, on human ASM (HASM) gene expression at 4 and 24 hours. After 24 hours of dexamethasone treatment, nearly 7,500 genes had statistically distinguishable changes in expression; quantitative PCR validation of a 40-gene subset of putative GR-regulated genes in 6 HASM cell lines suggested that the early transcriptional targets of GR signaling are similar in independent HASM lines. Gene ontology analysis implicated GR targets in controlling multiple aspects of ASM function. One GR-regulated gene, the transcription factor, Kruppel-like factor 15 (Klf15), was already known to modulate vascular smooth and cardiac muscle function, but had no known role in the lung. We therefore analyzed the pulmonary phenotype of Klf15(-/-) mice after ovalbumin sensitization and challenge. We found diminished airway responses to acetylcholine in ovalbumin-challenged Klf15(-/-) mice without a significant change in the induction of asthmatic inflammation. In cultured cells, overexpression of Klf15 reduced proliferation of HASM cells, whereas apoptosis in Klf15(-/-) murine ASM cells was increased. Together, these results further characterize the GR-regulated gene network in ASM and establish a novel role for the GR target, Klf15, in modulating airway function.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asthma / metabolism
  • Bronchial Hyperreactivity / metabolism*
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Proliferation
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Dexamethasone / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Glucocorticoids / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism*
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Ovalbumin / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Glucocorticoids
  • KLF15 protein, human
  • Klf15 protein, mouse
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Dexamethasone
  • Ovalbumin