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J Immunol. 2011 Dec 1;187(11):6094-107. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1003507. Epub 2011 Oct 24.

Integrin αvβ5-mediated TGF-β activation by airway smooth muscle cells in asthma.

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Nottingham Respiratory Biomedical Research Unit, University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG5 1PB, United Kingdom.


Severe asthma is associated with airway remodeling, characterized by structural changes including increased smooth muscle mass and matrix deposition in the airway, leading to deteriorating lung function. TGF-β is a pleiotropic cytokine leading to increased synthesis of matrix molecules by human airway smooth muscle (HASM) cells and is implicated in asthmatic airway remodeling. TGF-β is synthesized as a latent complex, sequestered in the extracellular matrix, and requires activation for functionality. Activation of latent TGF-β is the rate-limiting step in its bioavailability. This study investigated the effect of the contraction agonists LPA and methacholine on TGF-β activation by HASM cells and its role in the development of asthmatic airway remodeling. The data presented show that LPA and methacholine induced TGF-β activation by HASM cells via the integrin αvβ5. Our findings highlight the importance of the β5 cytoplasmic domain because a polymorphism in the β5 subunit rendered the integrin unable to activate TGF-β. To our knowledge, this is the first description of a biologically relevant integrin that is unable to activate TGF-β. These data demonstrate that murine airway smooth muscle cells express αvβ5 integrins and activate TGF-β. Finally, these data show that inhibition, or genetic loss, of αvβ5 reduces allergen-induced increases in airway smooth muscle thickness in two models of asthma. These data highlight a mechanism of TGF-β activation in asthma and support the hypothesis that bronchoconstriction promotes airway remodeling via integrin mediated TGF-β activation.

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