ObjectiveOtitis media is one of the most common pediatric infections. While it is usually treated without difficulty, up to 20% of children may progress to long-term complications that include hearing loss, impaired speech and language development, academic underachievement, and irreversible disease. Hyperplasia of middle ear mucosa contributes to the sequelae of acute otitis media and is of important clinical significance. Understanding the role of growth factors in the mediation of mucosal hyperplasia could lead to the development of new therapeutic interventions for this disease and its sequelae.
MethodsFrom a whole genome gene array analysis of mRNA expression during acute otitis media, we identified growth factors with expression kinetics temporally related to hyperplasia. We then tested these factors for their ability to stimulate mucosal epithelial growth in vitro, and determined protein levels and histological distribution in vivo for active factors.
ResultsFrom the gene array, we identified seven candidate growth factors with upregulation of mRNA expression kinetics related to mucosal hyperplasia. Of the seven, only HB-EGF (heparin-binding-epidermal growth factor) induced significant mucosal epithelial hyperplasia in vitro. Subsequent quantification of HB-EGF protein expression in vivo via Western blot analysis confirmed that the protein is highly expressed from 6 hours to 24 hours after bacterial inoculation, while immunohistochemistry revealed production by middle ear epithelial cells and infiltrating lymphocytes.
ConclusionOur data suggest an active role for HB-EGF in the hyperplasia of the middle ear mucosal epithelium during otitis media. These results imply that therapies targeting HB-EGF could ameliorate mucosal growth during otitis media, and thereby reduce detrimental sequelae of this childhood disease.