Rhinoviral stimuli, epithelial factors and ATP signalling contribute to bronchial smooth muscle production of IL-33

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Background: Bronchial smooth muscle cells (BSMCs) from severe asthmatics have been shown to overexpress the Th2-driving and asthma-associated cytokine IL-33. However, little is known regarding factors involved in BSMC production of IL-33. Rhinovirus (RV) infections cause asthma exacerbations, which exhibit features of Th2-type inflammation. Here, we investigated the effects of epithelial-derived media and viral stimuli on IL-33 expression in human BSMCs. Methods: Primary human BSMCs from healthy (n = 3) and asthmatic (n = 3) subjects were stimulated with conditioned media from primary human bronchial epithelial cells (BECs), double-stranded (ds) RNA, dsRNA/LyoVec, or infected with RV. BSMCs were also pretreated with the purinergic receptor antagonist suramin. IL-33 expression was analysed by RT-qPCR and western blot and ATP levels were determined in cell supernatants. Results: RV infection and activation of TLR3 by dsRNA increased IL-33 mRNA and protein in healthy and asthmatic BSMCs. These effects were inhibited by dexamethasone. BSMC expression of IL-33 was also increased by stimulation of RIG-I-like receptors using dsRNA/LyoVec. Conditioned media from BECs induced BSMC expression of IL-33, which was further enhanced by dsRNA. BEC-derived medium and viral-stimulated BSMC supernatants exhibited elevated ATP levels. Blocking of purinergic signalling with suramin inhibited BSMC expression of IL-33 induced by dsRNA and BEC-derived medium. Conclusions: RV infection of BSMCs and activation of TLR3 and RIG-I-like receptors cause expression and production of IL-33. Epithelial-released factor(s) increase BSMC expression of IL-33 and exhibit positive interaction with dsRNA. Increased BSMC IL-33 associates with ATP release and is antagonised by suramin. We suggest that epithelial-derived factors contribute to baseline BSMC IL-33 production, which is further augmented by RV infection of BSMCs and stimulation of their pathogen-recognising receptors.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Respiratory Medicine and Allergy


  • Bronchial smooth muscle cells, Bronchial epithelial cells, ATP, Asthma, Rhinovirus, dsRNA, IL-33
Original languageEnglish
Article number281
JournalJournal of Translational Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Publication categoryResearch