American journal of respiratory cell and molecular biology

Cross-talk between transforming growth factor-β₁ and muscarinic M₂ receptors augments airway smooth muscle proliferation.

PMID 23449734


Transforming growth factor-β₁ (TGF-β₁) is a central mediator in tissue remodeling processes, including fibrosis and airway smooth muscle (ASM) hyperplasia, as observed in asthma. The mechanisms underlying this response, however, remain unclear because TGF-β₁ exerts only weak mitogenic effects on ASM cells. In this study, we hypothesized that the mitogenic effect of TGF-β₁ on ASM is indirect and requires prolonged exposure to allow for extracellular matrix (ECM) deposition. To address this hypothesis, we investigated the effects of acute and prolonged treatment with TGF-β₁, alone and in combination with the muscarinic receptor agonist methacholine, on human ASM cell proliferation. Acutely, TGF-β₁ exerted no mitogenic effect. However, prolonged treatment (for 7 d) with TGF-β₁ increased ASM cell proliferation and potentiated the platelet-derived growth factor-induced mitogenic response. Muscarinic receptor stimulation with methacholine synergistically enhanced the effect of TGF-β₁. Interestingly, the integrin-blocking peptide Arg-Gly-Asp-Ser, as well as integrin α5β1 function-blocking antibodies, inhibited the effects of TGF-β₁ and its combination with methacholine on cell proliferation. Accordingly, prolonged treatment with TGF-β₁ increased fibronectin expression, which was also synergistically enhanced by methacholine. The synergistic effects of methacholine on TGF-β₁-induced proliferation were reduced by the long-acting muscarinic receptor antagonist tiotropium and the M₂ receptor subtype-selective antagonist gallamine, but not the M₃-selective antagonist DAU5884. In line with these findings, the irreversible Gi protein inhibitor pertussis toxin also prevented the potentiation of TGF-β₁-induced proliferation by methacholine. We conclude that prolonged exposure to TGF-β₁ enhances ASM cell proliferation, which is mediated by extracellular matrix-integrin interactions, and which can be enhanced by muscarinic M₂ receptor stimulation.