Background: Patients who have esophageal eosinophilia without gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) nevertheless can respond to proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which can have anti-inflammatory actions independent of effects on gastric acid secretion. In esophageal cell cultures, omeprazole has been reported to inhibit Th2 cytokine-stimulated expression of eotaxin-3, an eosinophil chemoattractant contributing to esophageal eosinophilia in eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE). The objective of this study was to elucidate molecular mechanisms underlying PPI inhibition of IL-4-stimulated eotaxin-3 production by esophageal cells.
Methods/findings: Telomerase-immortalized and primary cultures of esophageal squamous cells from EoE patients were treated with IL-4 in the presence or absence of acid-activated omeprazole or lansoprazole. We measured eotaxin-3 protein secretion by ELISA, mRNA expression by PCR, STAT6 phosphorylation and nuclear translocation by Western blotting, eotaxin-3 promoter activation by an exogenous reporter construct, and STAT6, RNA polymerase II, and trimethylated H3K4 binding to the endogenous eotaxin-3 promoter by ChIP assay. Omeprazole in concentrations ≥5 µM significantly decreased IL-4-stimulated eotaxin-3 protein secretion and mRNA expression. Lansoprazole also blocked eotaxin-3 protein secretion. Omeprazole had no effect on eotaxin-3 mRNA stability or on STAT6 phosphorylation and STAT6 nuclear translocation. Rather, omeprazole blocked binding of IL-4-stimulated STAT6, RNA polymerase II, and trimethylated H3K4 to the eotaxin-3 promoter.
Conclusions/significance: PPIs, in concentrations achieved in blood with conventional dosing, significantly inhibit IL-4-stimulated eotaxin-3 expression in EoE esophageal cells and block STAT6 binding to the promoter. These findings elucidate molecular mechanisms whereby patients with Th2 cytokine-driven esophageal eosinophilia can respond to PPIs, independent of effects on gastric acid secretion.