Modulation of epidermal growth factor receptor binding to human airway smooth muscle cells by glucocorticoids and β2-adrenergic receptor agonists

Karen M. Kassel, Nancy A. Schulte, Myron L. Toews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


EGF receptors (EGFRs) are increased in airway smooth muscle in asthma, which may contribute to both their hyperproliferation and hypercontractility. Lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) is a candidate pathological agent in asthma and other airway diseases, and LPA upregulates EGFRs in human airway smooth muscle (HASM) cells. We tested whether therapeutic glucocorticoids and/or β2-adrenergic receptor (β2AR) agonists also alter EGFR binding in HASM cells. Exposure to glucocorticoids for 24 h induced a twofold increase in EGFR binding similar to that with LPA; fluticasone was markedly more potent than dexamethasone. The increase in EGFR binding by glucocorticoids required 24-h exposure, consistent with transcription-mediated effects. Although the increase in EGFR binding was blocked by the protein synthesis inhibitor cycloheximide for LPA, fluticasone, and dexamethasone, only LPA induced a significant increase in EGFR protein expression detected by immunoblotting. In contrast to the increased binding induced by the glucocorticoids, the β2AR agonists isoproterenol, albuterol, and salmeterol all induced a decrease in EGFR binding. β2AR agonist effects were multiphasic, with an initial decline at 2-4 h that reversed by 6 h and a second, somewhat greater decrease by 18-24 h. In cells pretreated with glucocorticoids, the decreases in EGFR binding by subsequent β2AR treatment were not statistically significant; glucocorticoid upregulation of EGFRs also prevented further increases by LPA. Similar increases by glucocorticoids and decreases by β2AR agonists were found in HFL-1 human lung fibroblasts. These complex and opposing effects of clinically relevant glucocorticoids and β2AR agonists on airway mesenchymal cell EGFRs likely contribute to their overall therapeutic profile in the diseased airway.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L693-L699
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2009


  • Combination therapy
  • Lung fibroblasts
  • Lysophosphatidic acid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


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