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Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2013 Oct;49(4):662-71. doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2013-0124OC.

Caveolin-1 controls airway epithelial barrier function. Implications for asthma.

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1 University of British Columbia James Hogg Research Centre, Heart and Lung Institute, St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; and.


The molecular basis for airway epithelial fragility in asthma has remained unclear. We investigated whether the loss of caveolin-1, the major component of caveolae and a known stabilizer of adherens junctions, contributes to epithelial barrier dysfunction in asthma. We studied the expression of caveolin-1 and adhesion molecules E-cadherin and β-catenin in airway sections, and we cultured bronchial epithelial cells from patients with asthma and from healthy control subjects. To determine the functional role of caveolin-1, we investigated the effects of caveolin-1 up-regulation and down-regulation on E-cadherin expression, barrier function, and proallergic activity in the human bronchial epithelial cell lines 16HBE and BEAS-2B. The membrane expression of caveolin-1 was significantly lower in airway epithelia from patients with asthma than from subjects without asthma, and this lower expression was maintained in vitro upon air-liquid interface and submerged culturing. Importantly, reduced caveolin-1 expression was accompanied by a loss of junctional E-cadherin and β-catenin expression, disrupted epithelial barrier function, and increased levels of the proallergic cytokine thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP). Furthermore, E-cadherin redistribution upon exposure to epidermal growth factor or house dust mite was paralleled by the internalization of caveolin-1 in 16HBE cells. These effects appear to be causally related, because the short, interfering RNA down-regulation of caveolin-1 resulted in the delocalization of E-cadherin and barrier dysfunction in 16HBE cells. Moreover, caveolin-1 overexpression improved barrier function and reduced TSLP expression in BEAS-2B cells. Together, our data demonstrate a crucial role for caveolin-1 in epithelial cell-cell adhesion, with important consequences for epithelial barrier function and the promotion of Th2 responses in asthma.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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