American journal of physiology. Lung cellular and molecular physiology

The cytokines interleukin-1β and tumor necrosis factor-α stimulate CFTR-mediated fluid secretion by swine airway submucosal glands.

PMID 22683572


The airway is kept sterile by an efficient innate defense mechanism. The cornerstone of airway defense is mucus containing diverse antimicrobial factors that kill or inactivate pathogens. Most of the mucus in the upper airways is secreted by airway submucosal glands. In patients with cystic fibrosis (CF), airway defense fails and the lungs are colonized by bacteria, usually Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Accumulating evidence suggests that airway submucosal glands contribute to CF pathogenesis by failing to respond appropriately to inhalation of bacteria. However, the regulation of submucosal glands by the innate immune system remains poorly understood. We studied the response of submucosal glands to the proinflammatory cytokines interleukin-1β and tumor necrosis factor-α. These are released into the airway submucosa in response to infection with the bacterium P. aeruginosa and are elevated in CF airways. Stimulation with IL-1β and TNF-α increased submucosal gland secretion in a concentration-dependent manner with a maximal secretion rate of 240 ± 20 and 190 ± 40 pl/min, respectively. The half maximal effective concentrations were 11 and 20 ng/ml, respectively. The cytokine effect was dependent on cAMP but was independent of cGMP, nitric oxide, Ca(2+), or p38 MAP kinase. Most importantly, IL-1β- and TNF-α-stimulated secretion was blocked by the CF transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) blocker, CFTRinh172 (100 μmol/l) but was not affected by the Ca(2+)-activated Cl(-) channel blocker, niflumic acid (1 μmol/l). The data suggest, that during bacterial infections and resulting release of proinflammatory cytokines, the glands are stimulated to secrete fluid, and this response is mediated by cAMP-activated CFTR, a process that would fail in patients with CF.