Understanding how expression of airway secretory mucins MUC5B and MUC5AC is regulated in health and disease is important to elucidating the pathogenesis of mucoobstructive respiratory diseases. The transcription factor SPDEF (sterile α-motif pointed domain epithelial specific transcription factor) is a key regulator of MUC5AC, but its role in regulating MUC5B in health and in mucoobstructive lung diseases is unknown. Characterization of Spdef-deficient mice upper and lower airways demonstrated region-specific, Spdef-dependent regulation of basal Muc5b expression. Neonatal Spdef-deficient mice exhibited reductions in BAL Muc5ac and Muc5b. Adult Spdef-deficient mice partially phenocopied Muc5b-deficient mice as they exhibited reduced Muc5b in nasopharyngeal and airway epithelia but not in olfactory Bowman glands, 75% incidence of nasopharyngeal hair/mucus plugs, and mild bacterial otitis media, without defective mucociliary clearance in the nasopharynx. In contrast, tracheal mucociliary clearance was reduced in Spdef-deficient mice in the absence of lung disease. To evaluate the role of Spdef in the development and persistence of Muc5b-predominant mucoobstructive lung disease, Spdef-deficient mice were crossed with Scnn1b-transgenic (Scnn1b-Tg) mice, which exhibit airway surface dehydration-induced airway mucus obstruction and inflammation. Spdef-deficient Scnn1b-Tg mice exhibited reduced Muc5ac, but not Muc5b, expression and BAL content. Airway mucus obstruction was not decreased in Spdef-deficient Scnn1b-Tg mice, consistent with Muc5b-dominant Scnn1b disease, but increased airway neutrophilia was observed compared with Spdef-sufficient Scnn1b-Tg mice. Collectively, these results indicate that Spdef regulates baseline Muc5b expression in respiratory epithelia but does not contribute to Muc5b regulation in a mouse model of Muc5b-predominant mucus obstruction caused by airway dehydration.
Keywords: Scnn1b-Tg; Spdef; mucociliary clearance; mucoobstructive lung disease.