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Phosphodiesterase 4 inhibition decreases MUC5AC expression induced by epidermal growth factor in human airway epithelial cells
  1. M Mata1,
  2. B Sarriá1,
  3. A Buenestado1,
  4. J Cortijo1,2,
  5. M Cerdá3,
  6. E J Morcillo1
  1. 1Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain
  2. 2Research Foundation, University General Hospital, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain
  3. 3Department of Pathology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr E J Morcillo
    Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, Av. Blasco Ibanez 15, E-46010 Valencia, Spain;


Background: A common pathological feature of chronic inflammatory airway diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is mucus hypersecretion. MUC5AC is the predominant mucin gene expressed in healthy airways and is increased in asthmatic and COPD patients. Recent clinical trials indicate that phosphodiesterase type 4 (PDE4) inhibitors may have therapeutic value for COPD and asthma. However, their direct effects on mucin expression have been scarcely investigated.

Methods: MUC5AC mRNA and protein expression were examined in cultured human airway epithelial cells (A549) and in human isolated bronchial tissue stimulated with epidermal growth factor (EGF; 25 ng/ml). MUC5AC mRNA was measured by real time RT-PCR and MUC5AC protein by ELISA (cell lysates and tissue homogenates), Western blotting (tissue homogenates) and immunohistochemistry.

Results: EGF increased MUC5AC mRNA and protein expression in A549 cells. PDE4 inhibitors produced a concentration dependent inhibition of the EGF induced MUC5AC mRNA and protein expression with potency values (−log IC50): roflumilast (∼7.5) > rolipram (∼6.5) > cilomilast (∼5.5). Roflumilast also inhibited the EGF induced expression of phosphotyrosine proteins, EGF receptor, and phospho-p38- and p44/42-MAPK measured by Western blot analysis in A549 cells. In human isolated bronchus, EGF induced MUC5AC mRNA and protein expression was inhibited by roflumilast (1 μM) as well as the MUC5AC positive staining shown by immunohistochemistry.

Conclusion: Selective PDE4 inhibition is effective in decreasing EGF induced MUC5AC expression in human airway epithelial cells. This effect may contribute to the clinical efficacy of this new drug category in mucus hypersecretory diseases.

  • Asthma
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • phosphodiesterase 4
  • mucin
  • epithelial growth factor
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  • This work was supported by grants SAF2002-04667 and SAF2003-07206-C02-01 from CICYT (Ministry of Science and Technology, Spanish Government) and Research Groups-03/166 funding from Regional Government (Generalitat Valenciana).

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