• Open Access

Airway smooth muscle chemokine receptor expression and function in asthma


Christopher Brightling, Department of Respiratory Medicine, University Hospitals of Leicester, Groby Road, Leicester LE3 9QP, UK. E-mail:


Background Chemokine receptors play an important role in cell migration and wound repair. In asthma, CCR3 and 7 are expressed by airway smooth muscle (ASM) and CCR7 has been implicated in the development of ASM hyperplasia. The expression profile of other chemokine receptors by ASM and their function needs to be further explored.

Objective We sought to investigate ASM chemokine receptor expression and function in asthma.

Methods ASM cells were derived from 17 subjects with asthma and 36 non-asthmatic controls. ASM chemokine receptor expression was assessed by flow cytometry and immunofluorescence. The function of chemokine receptors expressed by more than 10% of ASM cells was investigated by intracellular calcium measurements, chemotaxis, wound healing, proliferation and survival assays.

Results In addition to CCR3 and 7, CXCR1, 3 and 4 were highly expressed by ASM. These CXC chemokine receptors were functional with an increase in intracellular calcium following ligand activation and promotion of wound healing [CXCL10 (100 ng/mL) 34 ± 2 cells/high-powered field (hpf) vs. control 29 ± 1; P=0.03; n=8]. Spontaneous wound healing was inhibited by CXCR3 neutralizing antibody (mean difference 7 ± 3 cells/hpf; P=0.03; n=3). CXC chemokine receptor activation did not modulate ASM chemotaxis, proliferation or survival. No differences in chemokine receptor expression or function were observed between ASM cells derived from asthmatic or non-asthmatic donors.

Conclusions Our findings suggest that the chemokine receptors CXCR1, 3 and 4 modulate some aspects of ASM function but their importance in asthma is uncertain.