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Original article
Microfibrillar-associated protein 4 modulates airway smooth muscle cell phenotype in experimental asthma
  1. Bartosz Pilecki1,
  2. Anders Schlosser1,
  3. Helle Wulf-Johansson1,
  4. Thomas Trian2,
  5. Jesper B Moeller1,
  6. Niels Marcussen3,
  7. Juan A Aguilar-Pimentel4,5,
  8. Martin Hrabe de Angelis4,6,
  9. Jorgen Vestbo7,8,
  10. Patrick Berger2,9,
  11. Uffe Holmskov1,
  12. Grith L Sorensen1
  1. 1Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark
  2. 2Department of Pharmacology, Bordeaux University, Cardio-thoracic Research Centre, U1045, Bordeaux, France
  3. 3Department of Pathology, Odense University Hospital, Odense, Denmark
  4. 4German Research Center for Environmental Health, German Mouse Clinic and Institute of Experimental Genetics, Helmholtz Zentrum Munich, Neuherberg, Germany
  5. 5Department of Dermatology and Allergology am Biederstein, University Hospital Klinikum rechts der Isar, Technical University Munich, Munich, Germany
  6. 6Chair of Experimental Genetics, Center of Life and Food Sciences Weihenstephan, Technical University Munich, Freising-Weihenstephan, Germany
  7. 7Department of Respiratory Medicine, Gentofte Hospital, Hellerup, Denmark
  8. 8Manchester Academic Health Science Centre, University Hospital South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester, UK
  9. 9Department of Lung Function Testing, Department of Thoracic Chirurgy, Department of Anatomy and Pathology, CHU Bordeaux Teaching Hospital, Pessac, France
  1. Correspondence to Dr Grith L Sorensen, Institute of Molecular Medicine, J.B. Winslows Vej 25.3, Odense C 5000, Denmark; glsorensen{at}


Background Recently, several proteins of the extracellular matrix have been characterised as active contributors to allergic airway disease. Microfibrillar-associated protein 4 (MFAP4) is an extracellular matrix protein abundant in the lung, whose biological functions remain poorly understood. In the current study we investigated the role of MFAP4 in experimental allergic asthma.

Methods MFAP4-deficient mice were subjected to alum/ovalbumin and house dust mite induced models of allergic airway disease. In addition, human healthy and asthmatic primary bronchial smooth muscle cell cultures were used to evaluate MFAP4-dependent airway smooth muscle responses.

Results MFAP4 deficiency attenuated classical hallmarks of asthma, such as eosinophilic inflammation, eotaxin production, airway remodelling and hyperresponsiveness. In wild-type mice, serum MFAP4 was increased after disease development and correlated with local eotaxin levels. MFAP4 was expressed in human bronchial smooth muscle cells and its expression was upregulated in asthmatic cells. Regarding the underlying mechanism, we showed that MFAP4 interacted with integrin αvβ5 and promoted asthmatic bronchial smooth muscle cell proliferation and CCL11 release dependent on phosphatidyloinositol-3-kinase but not extracellular signal-regulated kinase pathway.

Conclusions MFAP4 promoted the development of asthmatic airway disease in vivo and pro-asthmatic functions of bronchial smooth muscle cells in vitro. Collectively, our results identify MFAP4 as a novel contributor to experimental asthma, acting through modulation of airway smooth muscle cells.

  • Asthma Mechanisms

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