Macrophages are related to goblet cell hyperplasia and induce MUC5B but not MUC5AC in human bronchus epithelial cells.
Airway goblet cell hyperplasia (GCH)-detectable by mucin staining-and abnormal macrophage infiltrate are pathological features present in many chronic respiratory disorders. However, it is unknown if both factors are associated. Using in-vivo and in-vitro models, we investigated whether macrophages are related with GCH and changes in mucin immunophenotypes. Lung sections from Sprague-Dawley rats treated for 48 h with one intra-tracheal dose of PBS or LPS (n=4-6 per group) were immunophenotyped for rat-goblet cells, immune, and proliferation markers. Human monocyte-derived macrophages (MDM) were pre-treated with or without LPS, immunophenotyped, and their supernatant, as well as cytokines at levels equivalent to supernatant were used to challenge primary culture of normal human bronchus epithelial cells (HBEC) in air-liquid interface, followed by MUC5B and MUC5AC mucin immunostaining. An association between increased bronchiolar goblet cells and terminal-bronchiolar proliferative epithelial cells confirmed the presence of GCH in our LPS rat model, which was related with augmented bronchiolar CD68 macrophage infiltration. The in-vitro experiments have shown that MUC5AC phenotype was inhibited when HBEC were challenged with supernatant from MDM pre-treated with or without LPS. In contrast, TNF-α and interleukin-1β at levels equivalent to supernatant from LPS-treated MDM increased MUC5AC. MUC5B was induced by LPS, supernatant from LPS-treated MDM, a mix of cytokines including TNF-α and TNF-α alone at levels present in supernatant from LPS-treated MDM. We demonstrated that macrophages are related with bronchiolar GCH, and that they induced MUC5B and inhibited MUC5AC in HBEC, suggesting a role for them in the pathogenesis of airway MUC5B-related GCH.