Airway epithelial cytokine responses in childhood wheeze are independent of atopic status

Catherine M McDougall, Peter J Helms, Garry M Walsh* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Background Airway epithelial cells (AEC) are key contributors to immune function in the lungs but little is known about their role and function in children. Objectives Having previously established that nasal AEC mediator release correlates with that of bronchial AEC, we assessed AEC responses in children with and without a history of wheeze. Methods Nasal AEC cultures were established from children (0.6–14.9 years) undergoing elective surgical procedures under general anaesthetic categorised as atopic asthmatic (n=12), virus-induced wheeze (n=8) or children without wheeze (n=32). Mediator release by AEC monolayers at passage 2 was determined by cytometric bead array assay or ELISA. Results Unstimulated AEC from children with a history of wheeze produced significantly less IL-8, IL-6, MCP-1 and G-CSF than AEC from healthy controls. There were no group differences in AEC release of VEGF, RANTES, MMP-9 or TIMP-1. After stimulation with the pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1β and TNFα, AEC from children with current wheeze produced significantly less IL-8, IL-6 and MCP-1 than children without wheeze. Release of G-CSF, VEGF, MMP-9 and TIMP-1 did not differ between the wheeze and control group. There were no differences in mediator release between subjects with atopic asthma and those with virus-induced wheeze or between atopic and non-atopic controls. On multivariate analysis, wheeze was the only significant predictor of AEC mediator release. Conclusion & Clinical Relevance Intrinsic differences in AEC from children with a history of wheeze may reflect a defect in cytokine production in vivo or an altered state of differentiation in vitro, independent of atopic status.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)689-700
Number of pages12
JournalRespiratory Medicine
Issue number6
Early online date14 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015

Bibliographical note

This study was supported by a Medical Research Council (UK) G84/6558 Clinical Research Training Fellowship and grants from NHS Grampian and Tenovus Scotland (CMcD and GMW) NHS Grampian is 05/17; Tenovus is G05/10.

The authors thank Norma Cruickshank and Alison Charles, Department of Immunology, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, for performing the IgE measurements, all the study participants and the surgical secretaries, surgeons and anaesthetists who facilitated subject recruitment and sample collection.


  • airway epithelium
  • wheeze
  • children
  • mediator release


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