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Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2011 Mar;300(3):L414-21. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00346.2010. Epub 2010 Dec 17.

Epithelial EGF receptor signaling mediates airway hyperreactivity and remodeling in a mouse model of chronic asthma.

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  • 1Division of Pulmonary Biology, Cincinnati Children's Hospital, OH 45229, USA.


Increases in the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) have been associated with the severity of airway thickening in chronic asthmatic subjects, and EGFR signaling is induced by asthma-related cytokines and inflammation. The goal of this study was to determine the role of EGFR signaling in a chronic allergic model of asthma and specifically in epithelial cells, which are increasingly recognized as playing an important role in asthma. EGFR activation was assessed in mice treated with intranasal house dust mite (HDM) for 3 wk. EGFR signaling was inhibited in mice treated with HDM for 6 wk, by using either the drug erlotinib or a genetic approach that utilizes transgenic mice expressing a mutant dominant negative epidermal growth factor receptor in the lung epithelium (EGFR-M mice). Airway hyperreactivity (AHR) was assessed by use of a flexiVent system after increasing doses of nebulized methacholine. Airway smooth muscle (ASM) thickening was measured by morphometric analysis. Sensitization to HDM (IgG and IgE), inflammatory cells, and goblet cell changes were also assessed. Increased EGFR activation was detected in HDM-treated mice, including in bronchiolar epithelial cells. In mice exposed to HDM for 6 wk, AHR and ASM thickening were reduced after erlotinib treatment and in EGFR-M mice. Sensitization to HDM and inflammatory cell counts were similar in all groups, except neutrophil counts, which were lower in the EGFR-M mice. Goblet cell metaplasia with HDM treatment was reduced by erlotinib, but not in EGFR-M transgenic mice. This study demonstrates that EGFR signaling, especially in the airway epithelium, plays an important role in mediating AHR and remodeling in a chronic allergic asthma model.

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