The human cathelicidin LL-37 enhances airway mucus production in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2014 Jan 3;443(1):103-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2013.11.074. Epub 2013 Nov 26.


Airway mucus overproduction is a distinguishing feature of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). LL-37 is the only member of human cathelicidins family of antimicrobial peptides and plays a central role in many immune and inflammatory reactions. Increasing evidence suggests the involvement of LL-37 in the pathogenesis of COPD. Here, we investigated the effects of LL-37 on airway mucus overproduction in COPD. We observed overexpression of both LL-37 and MUC5AC mucin (a major mucin component of mucus) in airways of COPD patients and found a correlation between them. We showed in vitro that LL-37 induces MUC5AC mucin production by airway epithelial NCI-H292 cells in the absence and presence of cigarette smoke extract, with TNF-α converting enzyme (TACE)-EGFR-ERK1/2 pathway and IL-8 required for the induction. Therefore, we concluded that LL-37 enhances the mucus production in COPD airways, thus contributing to the progression of COPD.

Keywords: COPD; Cathelicidins; EGFR; Mucins; Mucous overproduction; TACE.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / genetics
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / physiology*
  • Cathelicidins
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Disease Progression
  • ErbB Receptors / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-18 / physiology
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mucin 5AC / genetics
  • Mucin 5AC / metabolism
  • Mucus / metabolism*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / metabolism*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / pathology
  • Respiratory Mucosa / metabolism*


  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides
  • Interleukin-18
  • MUC5AC protein, human
  • Mucin 5AC
  • EGFR protein, human
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Cathelicidins