The role of IgE-receptors in IgE-dependent airway smooth muscle cell remodelling

PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e56015. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0056015. Epub 2013 Feb 14.


Background: In allergic asthma, IgE increases airway remodelling but the mechanism is incompletely understood. Airway remodelling consists of two independent events increased cell numbers and enhanced extracellular matrix deposition, and the mechanism by which IgE up-regulates cell proliferation and extracellular matrix deposition by human airway smooth muscle cells in asthma is unclear.

Objective: Characterise the role of the two IgE receptors and associated signalling cascades in airway smooth muscle cell remodelling.

Methods: Primary human airway smooth muscle cells (8 asthmatics, 8 non-asthmatics) were stimulated with human purified antibody-activated IgE. Proliferation was determined by direct cell counts. Total collagen deposition was determined by Sircol; collagen species deposition by ELISA. IgE receptors were silenced by siRNA and mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) signalling was blocked by chemical inhibitors.

Results: IgE dose-dependently increased extracellular matrix and collagen deposition by airway smooth muscle cells as well as their proliferation. Specifically in cells of asthma patients IgE increased the deposition of collagen-type-I, -III, -VII and fibronectin, but did not affect the deposition of collagens type-IV. IgE stimulated collagen type-I and type-VII deposition through IgE receptor-I and Erk1/2 MAPK. Proliferation and deposition of collagens type-III and fibronectin involved both IgE receptors as well as Erk1/2 and p38 MAPK. Pre-incubation (30 minutes) with Omalizumab prevented all remodelling effects completely. We observed no changes in gelatinase activity or their inhibitors. CONCLUSION CLINCAL RELEVANCE: Our study provides the molecular biological mechanism by which IgE increases airway remodelling in asthma through increased airway smooth muscle cell proliferation and deposition of pro-inflammatory collagens and fibronectin. Blocking IgE action prevents several aspects of airway smooth muscle cell remodelling. Our findings may explain the recently described reduction of airway wall thickness in severe asthma patients treated with humanised anti-IgE antibodies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Airway Remodeling / genetics
  • Airway Remodeling / immunology*
  • Asthma / genetics
  • Asthma / immunology*
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Collagen / analysis
  • Collagen / immunology
  • Fibronectins / analysis
  • Fibronectins / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin E / immunology*
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System / drug effects
  • Myocytes, Smooth Muscle / immunology*
  • Myocytes, Smooth Muscle / metabolism
  • RNA Interference
  • Receptors, IgE / genetics
  • Receptors, IgE / immunology*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Fibronectins
  • Receptors, IgE
  • Immunoglobulin E
  • Collagen

Grant support

Michael Roth received a research grant from the Swiss National Foundation (310030_130740). Michael Tamm received an unrestricted research grant from Novartis. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.