Epidermal growth factor receptor signaling to Erk1/2 and STATs control the intensity of the epithelial inflammatory responses to rhinovirus infection

Kenneth Liu, Rosa C Gualano, Margaret Hibbs, Gary Anderson, Steven Bozinovski

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73 Citations (Scopus)


Rhinovirus infection is the most common cause of acute exacerbations of inflammatory lung diseases, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, where it provokes steroid refractory and abnormally intense neutrophilic inflammation that can be life threatening. Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) expression correlates with disease severity and neutrophil infiltration in these conditions. However, the role of EGFR signaling in rhinovirus infection is unknown. We measured the key determinants of neutrophilic inflammation interleukin (IL)-8 and ICAM-1 in rhinovirus (RV16 serotype)-infected bronchial epithelial cells, BEAS-2B. RV16 infection stimulated IL-8 and ICAM-1 expression, which was further elevated (2-fold) by transient up-regulation of EGFR levels. Detection of viral RNA by quantitative real time PCR confirmed that enhanced expression was not associated with increased viral replication. EGFR ligands (epiregulin, amphiregulin, and heparin-binding epidermal growth factor) were induced by RV16 infection, and inhibition of metalloproteases responsible for ligand shedding partially suppressed this response. The EGFR inhibitor AG1478, completely blocked IL-8 and ICAM-1 expression to basal levels, as did the specific Erk1/2 inhibitor U0126. The p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase inhibitor SB203580 blocked IL-8 secretion but not ICAM-1 expression, whereas the PI3K inhibitor wortmannin was ineffective in both responses. Kinase inactive K721R EGFR, which is selectively deficient in STAT signaling, reversed RV16 responses associated with EGFR overexpression. In conclusion, RV16 infection rapidly promotes induction of EGFR ligands and utilizes EGFR signaling to increase IL-8 and ICAM-1 levels. These results suggest that targeting EGFR may provide a selective therapy that dampens neutrophil-driven inflammation without compromising essential antiviral pathways mediated by pathogen recognition receptors such as TLR3.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9977 - 9985
Number of pages9
JournalThe Journal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes

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