Background: Mast cell localization within the airway smooth muscle (ASM)-bundle plays an important role in the development of airway hyper-responsiveness (AHR). Genomewide association studies implicate the 'alarmin' IL-33 in asthma, but its role in mast cell-ASM interactions is unknown.
Objectives: We examined the expression and functional role of IL-33 in bronchial biopsies of patients with and without asthma, ex vivo ASM, mast cells, cocultured cells and in a mouse model system.
Methods: IL-33 protein expression was assessed in human bronchial tissue from 9 healthy controls, and 18 mild-to-moderate and 12 severe asthmatic patients by immunohistochemistry. IL-33 and ST2 mRNA and protein expression in human-derived ASM, epithelial and mast cells were assessed by qPCR, immunofluorescence and/or flow cytometry and ELISA. Functional assays were used to assess calcium signalling, wound repair, proliferation, apoptosis and contraction. AHR and inflammation were assessed in a mouse model.
Results: Bronchial epithelium and ASM expressed IL-33 with the latter in asthma correlating with AHR. ASM and mast cells expressed intracellular IL-33 and ST2. IL-33 stimulated mast cell IL-13 and histamine secretion independent of FcεR1 cross-linking and directly promoted ASM wound repair. Coculture of mast cells with ASM activated by IL-33 increased agonist-induced ASM contraction, and in vivo IL-33 induced AHR in a mouse cytokine installation model; both effects were IL-13 dependent.
Conclusion: IL-33 directly promotes mast cell activation and ASM wound repair but indirectly promotes ASM contraction via upregulation of mast cell-derived IL-13. This suggests that IL-33 may present an important target to modulate mast cell-ASM crosstalk in asthma.
Keywords: ASM; IL-33; mast cells.
© 2015 The Authors. © Journal compilation 2015 Blackwell Munksgaard.