2017 Volume 53 Pages 37-47
Airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR) and inflammation are key pathophysiological features of asthma. Enhanced contraction of bronchial smooth muscle (BSM) is one of the causes of the AHR. It is thus important for development of asthma therapy to understand the change in the contractile signaling of airway smooth muscle cells associated with the AHR. In addition to the Ca2+-mediated phosphorylation of myosin light chain (MLC), contractile agonists also enhance MLC phosphorylation level, Ca2+-independently, by inactivating MLC phosphatase (MLCP), called Ca2+ sensitization of contraction, in smooth muscle cells including airways. To date, involvements of RhoA/ROCKs and PKC/Ppp1r14a (also called as CPI-17) pathways in the Ca2+ sensitization have been identified. Our previous studies revealed that the agonist-induced Ca2+ sensitization of contraction is markedly augmented in BSMs of animal models of allergen-induced AHR. In BSMs of these animal models, the expression of RhoA and CPI-17 proteins were significantly increased, indicating that both the Ca2+ sensitizing pathways are augmented. Interestingly, incubation of BSM cells with asthma-associated cytokines, such as interleukin-13 (IL-13), IL-17, and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), caused up-regulations of RhoA and CPI-17 in BSM cells of naive animals and cultured human BSM cells. In addition to the transcription factors such as STAT6 and NF-κB activated by these inflammatory cytokines, an involvement of down-regulation of miR-133a, a microRNA that negatively regulates RhoA translation, has also been suggested in the IL-13- and IL-17-induced up-regulation of RhoA. Thus, the Ca2+ sensitizing pathways and the cytokine-mediated signaling including microRNAs in BSMs might be potential targets for treatment of allergic asthma, especially the AHR.