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Lung. 2013 Apr;191(2):215-25. doi: 10.1007/s00408-013-9450-z. Epub 2013 Feb 14.

Urokinase receptor orchestrates the plasminogen system in airway epithelial cell function.

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  • 1Division of Therapeutics and Molecular Medicine, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, NG7 2UH, UK.



The plasminogen system plays many roles in normal epithelial cell function, and components are elevated in diseases, such as cancer and asthma. The relative contribution of each component to epithelial function is unclear. We characterized normal cell function in airway epithelial cells with increased expression of selected pathway components.


BEAS-2B R1 bronchial epithelial cells stably overexpressing membrane urokinase plasminogen activator receptor (muPAR), soluble spliced uPAR (ssuPAR), the ligand (uPA) or inhibitors (PAI1 or PAI2), were characterized for pathway expression. Cell function was examined using proliferation, apoptosis, and scratch wound assays. A549 alveolar epithelial cells overexpressing muPAR were similarly characterized and downstream plasmin activity, MMP-1, and MMP-9 measured.


Elevated expression of individual components led to changes in the plasminogen system expression profile, indicating coordinated regulation of the pathway. Increased muPAR expression augmented wound healing rate in BEAS-2B R1 and attenuated repair in A549 cells. Elevated expression of other system components had no effect on cell function in BEAS-2B R1 cells. This is the first study to investigate activity of the splice variant ssuPAR, with results suggesting that this variant plays a limited role in epithelial cell function in this model.


Our data highlight muPAR as the critical molecule orchestrating effects of the plasminogen system on airway epithelial cell function. These data have implications for diseases, such as cancer and asthma, and suggest uPAR as the key therapeutic target for the pathway in approaches to alter epithelial cell function.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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