The Journal of biological chemistry

Differentiated murine airway epithelial cells synthesize a leukocyte-adhesive hyaluronan matrix in response to endoplasmic reticulum stress.

PMID 18644783


In this report, we describe a novel method for culturing murine trachea epithelial cells on a native basement membrane at an air-liquid interface to produce a pseudostratified, differentiated airway epithelium composed of ciliated and nonciliated cells. This model was used to examine hyaluronan synthesis by the airway epithelial cells (AECs) in response to poly(I,C) and tunicamycin. The former induces a response similar to viral infection, and the latter is a bacterial toxin known to induce endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress. We found significant accumulation of hyaluronan on the apical surface of the AECs in response to ER stress, but, unlike previously reported results with smooth muscle cells, no increase in hyaluronan was observed in response to poly(I,C). Monocytic U937 cells adhered at 4 degrees C to the apical surface of the AECs subjected to ER stress by a mechanism almost entirely mediated by hyaluronan. The U937 cells spontaneously released themselves from the abnormal hyaluronan matrix when their metabolism was restored by shifting the temperature from 4 to 37 degrees C in a custom-made flow chamber. Time lapse confocal microscopy permitted live imaging of this interaction between the U937 cells and the hyaluronan matrix and their subsequent response at 37 degrees C. Within 45 min, we observed dynamic protrusions of the U937 cell plasma membrane into nearby hyaluronan matrix, resulting in the degradation of this matrix. Simultaneously, we observed some reorganization of the hyaluronan matrix, from a generalized, apical distribution to localized regions around the AEC tight junctions. We discuss the implications these results might have for the airway epithelium and its relation to airway inflammation and hyperresponsiveness associated with asthma and other airway diseases.

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