• airway epithelial cells;
  • MUC5AC;
  • S100A12;
  • S100A8;
  • S100A9


Airway mucus hyperproduction is a common feature of chronic airway diseases such as severe asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cystic fibrosis, which are closely associated with neutrophilic airway inflammation. S100A8, S100A9 and S100A12 are highly abundant proteins released by neutrophils and have been identified as important biomarkers in many inflammatory diseases. Herein, we report a new role for S100A8, S100A9 and S100A12 for producing MUC5AC, a major mucin protein in the respiratory tract. All three S100 proteins induced MUC5AC mRNA and the protein in normal human bronchial epithelial cells as well as NCI-H292 lung carcinoma cells in a dose-dependent manner. A Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) inhibitor almost completely abolished MUC5AC expression by all three S100 proteins, while neutralization of the receptor for advanced glycation end-products (RAGE) inhibited only S100A12-mediated production of MUC5AC. The S100 protein-mediated production of MUC5AC was inhibited by the pharmacological agents that block prominent signalling molecules for MUC5AC expression, such as mitogen-activated protein kinases, nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) and epidermal growth factor receptor. S100A8, S100A9 and S100A12 equally elicited both phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and nuclear translocation of NF-κB/degradation of cytosolic IκB with similar kinetics through TLR4. In contrast, S100A12 preferentially activated the ERK pathway rather than the NF-κB pathway through RAGE. Collectively, these data reveal the capacity of these three S100 proteins to induce MUC5AC production in airway epithelial cells, suggesting that they all serve as key mediators linking neutrophil-dominant airway inflammation to mucin hyperproduction.