• epithelial cell;
  • cytokine;
  • inflammation;
  • interleukin 4;
  • IL-4;
  • interleukin 13;
  • IL-13;
  • Th2 inflammation;
  • rhinosinusitis;
  • allergic fungal sinusitis


Altered expression of epithelial intercellular junction proteins has been observed in sinonasal biopsies from nasal polyps and epithelial layers cultured from nasal polyp patients. These alterations comprise a “leaky” epithelial barrier phenotype. We hypothesize that T helper 2 (Th2) cytokines interleukin (IL)-4 and IL-13 modulate epithelial junction proteins, thereby contributing to the leaky epithelial barrier.


Differentiated primary sinonasal epithelial layers cultured at the air-liquid interface were exposed to IL-4, IL-13, and controls for 24 hours at 37°C. Epithelial resistance measurements were taken every 4 hours during cytokine exposure. Western blot and immunofluorescence staining/confocal microscopy were used to assess changes in a panel of tight and adherens junction proteins. Western blot densitometry was quantified with image analysis.


IL-4 and IL-13 exposure resulted in a mean decrease in transepithelial resistance at 24 hours to 51.6% (n = 6) and 68.6% (n = 8) of baseline, respectively. Tight junction protein junctional adhesion molecule-A (JAM-A) expression decreased 42.2% with IL-4 exposure (n = 9) and 37.5% with IL-13 exposure (n = 9). Adherens junction protein E-cadherin expression decreased 35.3% with IL-4 exposure (n = 9) and 32.9% with IL-13 exposure (n = 9). Tight junction protein claudin-2 showed more variability but had a trend toward higher expression with Th2 cytokine exposure. There were no appreciable changes in claudin-1, occludin, or zonula occludens-1 (ZO-1) with IL-4 or IL-13 exposure.


Sinonasal epithelial exposure to Th2 cytokines IL-4 and IL-13 results in alterations in intercellular junction proteins, reflecting increased epithelial permeability. Such changes may explain some of the phenotypic manifestations of Th2-mediated sinonasal disease, such as edema, nasal discharge, and environmental reactivity.