Tollip Inhibits ST2 Signaling in Airway Epithelial Cells Exposed to Type 2 Cytokines and Rhinovirus

Azzeddine Dakhama, Reem Al Mubarak, Nicole Pavelka, Dennis Voelker, Max Seibold, Julie G. Ledford, Monica Kraft, Liwu Li, Hong Wei Chu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The negative immune regulator Tollip inhibits the proinflammatory response to rhinovirus (RV) infection, a contributor to airway neutrophilic inflammation and asthma exacerbations, but the underlying molecular mechanisms are poorly understood. Tollip may inhibit IRAK1, a signaling molecule downstream of ST2, the receptor of IL-33. This study was carried out to determine whether Tollip downregulates ST2 signaling via inhibition of IRAK1, but promotes soluble ST2 (sST2) production, thereby limiting excessive IL-8 production in human airway epithelial cells during RV infection in a type 2 cytokine milieu (e.g., IL-13 and IL-33 stimulation). Tollip- and IRAK1-deficient primary human tracheobronchial epithelial (HTBE) cells and Tollip knockout (KO) HTBE cells were generated using the shRNA knockdown and CRISPR/Cas9 approaches, respectively. Cells were stimulated with IL-13, IL-33, and/or RV16. sST2, activated IRAK1, and IL-8 were measured. A Tollip KO mouse model was utilized to test if Tollip regulates the airway inflammatory response to RV infection in vivo under IL-13 and IL-33 treatment. Following IL-13, IL-33, and RV treatment, Tollip-deficient (vs. -sufficient) HTBE cells produced excessive IL-8, accompanied by decreased sST2 production but increased IRAK1 activation. IL-8 production following IL-13/IL-33/RV exposure was markedly attenuated in IRAK1-deficient HTBE cells, as well as in Tollip KO HTBE cells treated with an IRAK1 inhibitor or a recombinant sST2 protein. Tollip KO (vs. wild-type) mice developed exaggerated airway neutrophilic responses to RV in the context of IL-13 and IL-33 treatment. Collectively, these data demonstrate that Tollip restricts excessive IL-8 production in type 2 cytokine-exposed human airways during RV infection by promoting sST2 production and inhibiting IRAK1 activation. sST2 and IRAK1 may be therapeutic targets for attenuating excessive neutrophilic airway inflammation in asthma, especially during RV infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-115
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Innate Immunity
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • Airway epithelial cells
  • Interleukin-8
  • Rhinovirus
  • ST2
  • Tollip
  • Type 2 cytokines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy


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