RATIONALE: Epithelial remodelling in asthma is characterised by goblet cell hyperplasia and mucus hypersecretion for which no therapies exist. Differentiated bronchial air-liquid interface cultures from asthmatic children display high goblet cell numbers. Epidermal growth factor and its receptor have been implicated in goblet cell hyperplasia.
OBJECTIVES: We hypothesised that EGF removal or tyrphostin AG1478 treatment of differentiating air-liquid interface cultures from asthmatic children would result in a reduction of epithelial goblet cells and mucus secretion.
METHODS: In Aim 1 primary bronchial epithelial cells from non-asthmatic (n = 5) and asthmatic (n = 5) children were differentiated under EGF-positive (10ng/ml EGF) and EGF-negative culture conditions for 28 days. In Aim 2, cultures from a further group of asthmatic children (n = 5) were grown under tyrphostin AG1478, a tyrosine kinase inhibitor, conditions. All cultures were analysed for epithelial resistance, markers of differentiation using immunocytochemistry, ELISA for MUC5AC mucin secretion and qPCR for MUC5AC mRNA.
RESULTS: In cultures from asthmatic children the goblet cell number was reduced in the EGF negative group (p = 0.01). Tyrphostin AG1478 treatment of cultures from asthmatic children had significant reductions in goblet cells at 0.2μg/ml (p = 0.03) and 2μg/ml (p = 0.003) as well as mucus secretion at 2μg/ml (p = 0.04).
CONCLUSIONS: We have shown in this preliminary study that through EGF removal and tyrphostin AG1478 treatment the goblet cell number and mucus hypersecretion in differentiating air-liquid interface cultures from asthmatic children is significantly reduced. This further highlights the epidermal growth factor receptor as a potential therapeutic target to inhibit goblet cell hyperplasia and mucus hypersecretion in asthma.