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J Interferon Cytokine Res. 2008 Apr;28(4):207-19. doi: 10.1089/jir.2007.0057.

Regulated expression of the IL-31 receptor in bronchial and alveolar epithelial cells, pulmonary fibroblasts, and pulmonary macrophages.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, SUNY Buffalo, Buffalo, NY 14203, USA.


Interleukin-31 (IL-31), an IL-6 cytokine family member, is proposed to play a role in animal models of airway hyperreactivity. It is produced by activated T cells and signals via a heterodimeric receptor complex composed of IL-31Ralpha and OSMRbeta. Only low levels of IL-31Ralpha expression have been demonstrated in pulmonary epithelial cell lines, however, and little is known about the ability to regulate its expression and signaling. Therefore, primary cultures of human bronchial and alveolar epithelial cells, pulmonary fibroblasts, pulmonary macrophages, and established lines of immortalized bronchial epithelial cells (HBE) and alveolar carcinoma cells (A549) were analyzed by RT-PCR, immunoblotting, and thymidine incorporation. Distinct, cell type-specific regulation of IL-31Ralpha expression was detected. Transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) enhanced IL-31Ralpha mRNA expression in primary cultures and established lines of epithelial cells, but not in macrophages. In contrast, interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) induced IL-31Ralpha mRNA expression in macrophages. IL-31Ralpha protein expression was below detection threshold in primary epithelial cell cultures but was detectable in A549 cells and increased with TGF-beta treatment. In HBE and A549 cells, TGF-beta pretreatment increased IL-31-mediated Stat3 and extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) phosphorylation. In A549 cells, TGF-beta magnified IL-31-dependent suppression of proliferation. The data suggest that increased IL-31Ralpha expression correlates with an enhanced response to IL-31.

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