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GM-CSF increases airway smooth muscle cell connective tissue expression by inducing TGF-beta receptors.


Fibrosis around the smooth muscle of asthmatic airway walls leads to irreversible airway obstruction. Bronchial epithelial cells release granulocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) in asthmatics and are in close proximity to airway smooth muscle cells (ASMC). The findings in this study demonstrate that GM-CSF induces confluent, prolonged, serum-deprived cultures of ASMC to increase expression of collagen I and fibronectin. GM-CSF also induced ASMC to increase the expression of transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta receptors type I, II, and III (TbetaR-I, TbetaR-II, TbetaR-III), but had no detectable effect on the release of TGF-beta1 by the same ASMC. The presence of GM-CSF also induced the association of TGF-beta1 with TbetaR-III, which enhances binding of TGF-beta1 to TbetaR-II. The induction of TbetaRs was parallel to the increased induction of phosphorylated Smad2 (pSmad2) and connective tissue growth factor (CTGF), indicative of TGF-beta-mediated connective tissue synthesis. Dexamethasone decreased GM-CSF-induced TbetaR-I, TbetaR-II, TbetaR-III, pSmad2, CTGF, collagen I, and fibronectin. In conclusion, GM-CSF increases the responsiveness of ASMC to TGF-beta1-mediated connective tissue expression by induction of TbetaRs, which is inhibited by corticosteroids.

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