New insights into airway mucous cell differentiation

Reen Wu, Richart Harper, Cheng Yuan Kao, Philip Thai, Daphne Wu, Yin Chen, Mary M.J. Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Chronic lung diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and cystic fibrosis are characterized by persistent airway inflammation and the overproduction of mucus in airways. So-called "goblet (mucous) cell metaplasia/hyperplasia" is the pathologic feature in these diseased airways, in which the normal mucociliary epithelium is replaced by goblet/mucous cells. The nature of the goblet/mucous cell population which arises in these diseased airways is unknown. Our recent studies have shown that trans-differentiation of surface epithelial cells occurs so that they express the submucosal gland-type mucin gene, MUC5B , in addition to a general elevation of all mucin gene products in surface epithelial cells as well as in the submucosal area. In contrast to MUC5B , the surface type of mucin gene, MUC5AC , is restrictedly expressed in the surface epithelium. Using a panel of cytokines - interleukin (IL)-1a, -1ß, -2, -3, -4, -5, -6, -7, -8, -9, -10, -11, -12, -13, -15, -16, -17, -18, and -19, and tumor necrosis factor-a - we have found to our surprise that only IL-6 and -7 can directly stimulate both MUC5AC and MUC5B expression in well-differentiated and polarized primary human airway epithelial cell cultures. Other cytokines, such as the Th2 type IL-4, -5, -9, and -13, cannot. Inhibitor and signaling transduction studies revealed the presence of an IL-6 paracrine/autocrine loop and the dependence on extracellular signal-regulated kinase signaling activation in IL-17-stimulated mucin gene expression. Further studies are needed to connect cytokine-based mucin gene expression and the trans-differentiation phenomenon in airway diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30-36
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Organ Dysfunction
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2006


  • Airway epithelial cells
  • Cytokines
  • Lung diseases
  • Mucin
  • Mucous cell differentiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Critical Care
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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