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J Clin Invest. 1990 Mar;85(3):682-9.

Neutrophil elastase and cathepsin G stimulate secretion from cultured bovine airway gland serous cells.

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  • 1Cardiovascular Research Institute, University of California, San Francisco, 94143-0130.


To investigate the hypothesis that neutrophil proteases stimulate airway gland secretion, we studied the effect of human cathepsin G and elastase on secretion of 35S-labeled macromolecules from cultured bovine airway gland serous cells. Both proteases stimulated secretion in a concentration-dependent fashion with a threshold of greater than or equal to 10(-10) M. Elastase was more potent than cathepsin G, causing a maximal secretory response of 1,810 +/- 60% over baseline at 10(-8) M. The maximal response to cathepsin G (1,810 +/- 70% over baseline at 10(-7) M) was similar to the maximal response to elastase. These responses were greater than 10-fold larger than the response to other agonists such as histamine. Protease-induced secretion was noncytotoxic and required catalytically active enzymes. The predominant sulfated macromolecule released by proteases was chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan. Immunocytochemical staining demonstrated chondroitin sulfate in cytoplasmic granules and decreased granular staining after stimulation of cells with elastase. The neutrophil proteases also degraded the proteoglycan released from serous cells. Cathepsin G and elastase in supernatant obtained by degranulation of human peripheral neutrophils also caused a secretory response. Thus, neutrophil proteases stimulate airway gland serous cell secretion of chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan and degrade the secreted product. These findings suggest a potential role for neutrophil proteases in the pathogenesis of increased and abnormal submucosal gland secretions in diseases associated with inflammation and neutrophil infiltration of the airways.

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