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Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2001 Dec;25(6):739-43.

Interleukin-13 induces proliferation of human airway epithelial cells in vitro via a mechanism mediated by transforming growth factor-alpha.

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Department of Anatomy, Physiological Sciences and Radiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 27606, USA.


Remodeling of the airways, as occurs in asthmatic patients, is associated with the continual presence of inflammatory mediators and Th2 cytokines, especially interleukin (IL)-13, during cycles of epithelial injury and repair. In this study, we examined the effect of IL-13 on well-differentiated normal human bronchial epithelial (NHBE) cells maintained in air-liquid interface culture. IL-13 induced proliferation of NHBE cells after 24 h exposure, as reflected by [(3)H]thymidine uptake and cell counts. The effects of IL-13 were mediated through the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), as proliferation was attenuated by AG1478, an EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor. Proliferation appeared to be mediated by transforming growth factor (TGF)-alpha, a potent ligand for EGFR, which was released rapidly from NHBE cells in response to IL-13. Neutralizing antibody to TGF-alpha, but not antibodies against other potentially important growth factors (EGF, heparin binding epidermal growth factor-like growth factor [HB-EGF], platelet-derived growth factor [PDGF]), inhibited the mitogenic response to IL-13. This study provides the first experimental evidence that IL-13 can initiate a proliferative response of human airway epithelium in the absence of inflammatory cells or other cell types. The results are consistent with a mechanism whereby IL-13 induces release of TGF-alpha from the epithelial cells, which in turn binds via an autocrine/paracrine-type action to the EGFR, initiating proliferation. IL-13-induced airway remodeling in vivo may involve this epithelium-driven response.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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