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Respir Res. 2012 Mar 27;13:28. doi: 10.1186/1465-9921-13-28.

Combination of roflumilast with a beta-2 adrenergic receptor agonist inhibits proinflammatory and profibrotic mediator release from human lung fibroblasts.

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Respiratory Research, Gilead Sciences, 199 East Blaine St, Seattle, WA 98102, USA.



Small airway narrowing is an important pathology which impacts lung function in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The accumulation of fibroblasts and myofibroblasts contribute to inflammation, remodeling and fibrosis by production and release of mediators such as cytokines, profibrotic factors and extracellular matrix proteins. This study investigated the effects of the phosphodiesterase 4 inhibitor roflumilast, combined with the long acting β2 adrenergic agonist indacaterol, both approved therapeutics for COPD, on fibroblast functions that contribute to inflammation and airway fibrosis.


The effects of roflumilast and indacaterol treatment were characterized on transforming growth factor β1 (TGFβ1)-treated normal human lung fibroblasts (NHLF). NHLF were evaluated for expression of the profibrotic mediators endothelin-1 (ET-1) and connective tissue growth factor (CTGF), expression of the myofibroblast marker alpha smooth muscle actin, and fibronectin (FN) secretion. Tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) was used to induce secretion of chemokine C-X-C motif ligand 10 (CXCL10), chemokine C-C motif ligand 5 (CCL5) and granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) from NHLF and drug inhibition was assessed.


Evaluation of roflumilast (1-10 μM) showed no significant inhibition alone on TGFβ1-induced ET-1 and CTGF mRNA transcripts, ET-1 and FN protein production, alpha smooth muscle expression, or TNF-α-induced secretion of CXCL10, CCL5 and GM-CSF. A concentration-dependent inhibition of ET-1 and CTGF was shown with indacaterol treatment, and a submaximal concentration was chosen for combination studies. When indacaterol (0.1 nM) was added to roflumilast, significant inhibition was seen on all inflammatory and fibrotic mediators evaluated, which was superior to the inhibition seen with either drug alone. Roflumilast plus indacaterol combination treatment resulted in significantly elevated phosphorylation of the transcription factor cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB), an effect that was protein kinase A-dependent. Inhibition of protein kinase A was also found to reverse the inhibition of indacaterol and roflumilast on CTGF.


These results demonstrate that addition of roflumilast to a LABA inhibits primary fibroblast/myofibroblast function and therapeutically this may impact lung fibroblast proinflammatory and profibrotic mediator release which contributes to small airway remodeling and airway obstruction in COPD.

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