Unique mechanisms of connective tissue growth factor regulation in airway smooth muscle in asthma: Relationship with airway remodelling

Junfei Wang, Alen Faiz, Qi Ge, Cornelis J. Vermeulen, Joanne Van der Velden, Kenneth J. Snibson, Rob van de Velde, Sonia Sawant, Dikaia Xenaki, Brian Oliver, Wim Timens, Nick ten Hacken, Maarten van den Berge, Alan James, John G. Elliot, Liang Dong, Janette K. Burgess, Anthony W. Ashton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Neovascularization, increased basal membrane thickness and increased airway smooth muscle (ASM) bulk are hallmarks of airway remodelling in asthma. In this study, we examined connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) dysregulation in human lung tissue and animal models of allergic airway disease. Immunohistochemistry revealed that ASM cells from patients with severe asthma (A) exhibited high expression of CTGF, compared to mild and non-asthmatic (NA) tissues. This finding was replicated in a sheep model of allergic airways disease. In vitro, transforming growth factor (TGF)-β increased CTGF expression both in NA- and A-ASM cells but the expression was higher in A-ASM at both the mRNA and protein level as assessed by PCR and Western blot. Transfection of CTGF promoter-luciferase reporter constructs into NA- and A-ASM cells indicated that no region of the CTGF promoter (−1500 to +200 bp) displayed enhanced activity in the presence of TGF-β. However, in silico analysis of the CTGF promoter suggested that distant transcription factor binding sites may influence CTGF promoter activation by TGF-β in ASM cells. The discord between promoter activity and mRNA expression was also explained, in part, by differential post-transcriptional regulation in A-ASM cells due to enhanced mRNA stability for CTGF. In patients, higher CTGF gene expression in bronchial biopsies was correlated with increased basement membrane thickness indicating that the enhanced CTGF expression in A-ASM may contribute to airway remodelling in asthma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2826-2837
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018


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