Constitutive nuclear factor-κB activity in human upper airway tissues and nasal epithelial cells


  • Supported by grants 96/2188 E and 98/1367 from the Fondo de Investigación Sanitaria of Spain and BMH4-CT95-0639 from the Commision of the European Communities.

I. Ramis, Dept of Medical Bioanalysis, Instituto de Investigaciones Biomédicas de Barcelona CSIC, c/ Rosellón 161, 08036-Barcelona, Spain. Fax: 34 933638301


Respiratory epithelial cells are actively involved in the host defence and inflammatory reactions of the airways. Nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) is a transcription factor that plays a pivotal role in many cellular responses to environmental changes. The inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) isoform has been implicated in airway inflammation as well as in normal airway function. In this study, the hypothesis that NF-κB may be associated with iNOS expression in airway epithelium, not only in inflammatory processes but also under physiological conditions was examined.

NF-κB deoxyribonucleic acid-binding activity was assayed by means of electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) and iNOS expression examined using immunohistochemical techniques in healthy nasal mucosa and chronically inflamed nasal polyps. Further NF-κB activity was assayed; by means of EMSA, in nasal epithelial cells isolated from both tissues.

NF-κB was activated in nasal polyps, but also to the same extent in healthy nasal mucosa. Uniform iNOS expression was localized within the airway epithelium in both inflamed and noninflamed tissues. Along with iNOS expression, concomitant NF-κB activation was found in nasal epithelial cells obtained from both tissues and no differences were observed when nasal mucosa and nasal polyp were compared.

These results suggest that constitutive nuclear factor-κB and concurrent inducible nitric oxide synthase expression in epithelial cells may play a physiological role in airway function.