Author(s): de Boer WI, Sharma HS, Baelemans SM, Hoogsteden HC, Lambrecht BN,
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Abstract Epithelial cells form a tight barrier against environmental stimuli via tight junctions (TJs) and adherence junctions (AJs). Defects in TJ and AJ proteins may cause changes in epithelial morphology and integrity and potentially lead to faster trafficking of inflammatory cells through the epithelium. Bronchial epithelial fragility has been reported in asthmatic patients, but little is known about the expression of TJ and AJ proteins in asthma. We studied epithelial expression of zonula occludens-1 (ZO-1) and AJ proteins E-cadherin, alpha-catenin, and beta-catenin in bronchial biopsies from nonatopic nonasthmatic (healthy) subjects (n = 14), and stable atopic asthmatic subjects (n = 22) at baseline conditions. Immunostaining for these proteins was semi-quantified for separate cellular compartments. E-cadherin, alpha-catenin and beta-catenin were present in the cellular membrane and less in the cytoplasm. Only beta-catenin was present in the nucleus in agreement with its potential function as transcription factor. ZO-1 was present in the apicolateral membrane of superficial cells. alpha-Catenin expression was significantly lower in subjects with asthma than without and correlated inversely with numbers of eosinophils within the epithelium. ZO-1 and E-cadherin expression were significantly lower in asthmatic than in nonasthmatic subjects. Expression of beta-catenin was not different. Our results suggest that the lower epithelial alpha-catenin, E-cadherin and (or) ZO-1 expression in patients with atopic asthma contributes to a defective airway epithelial barrier and a higher influx of eosinophils in the epithelium.
This article was published in Can J Physiol Pharmacol
and referenced in Journal of Steroids & Hormonal Science