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Mucosal Immunol. 2013 May;6(3):639-54. doi: 10.1038/mi.2012.105. Epub 2012 Nov 21.

The ER stress transducer IRE1β is required for airway epithelial mucin production.

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Cystic Fibrosis/Pulmonary Research and Treatment Center, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.


Inflammation of human bronchial epithelia (HBE) activates the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress transducer inositol-requiring enzyme 1 (IRE1)α, resulting in IRE1α-mediated cytokine production. Previous studies demonstrated ubiquitous expression of IRE1α and gut-restricted expression of IRE1β. We found that IRE1β is also expressed in HBE, is absent in human alveolar cells, and is upregulated in cystic fibrosis and asthmatic HBE. Studies with Ire1β(-/-) mice and Calu-3 airway epithelia exhibiting IRE1β knockdown or overexpression revealed that IRE1β is expressed in airway mucous cells, is functionally required for airway mucin production, and this function is specific for IRE1β vs. IRE1α. IRE1β-dependent mucin production is mediated, at least in part, by activation of the transcription factor X-box binding protein-1 (XBP-1) and the resulting XBP-1-dependent transcription of anterior gradient homolog 2, a gene implicated in airway and intestinal epithelial mucin production. These novel findings suggest that IRE1β is a potential mucous cell-specific therapeutic target for airway diseases characterized by mucin overproduction.

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