Background Airway smooth muscle (ASM) hyperplasia and mast cell localization within the ASM bundle are important features of asthma. The cause of this increased ASM mass is uncertain and whether it is a consequence of ASM–mast cell interactions is unknown.
Objective We sought to investigate ASM proliferation and survival in asthma and the effects of co-culture with mast cells.
Methods Primary ASM cultures were derived from 11 subjects with asthma and 12 non-asthmatic controls. ASM cells were cultured for up to 10 days in the presence or absence of serum either alone or in co-culture with the human mast cell line-1, unstimulated human lung mast cells (HLMC) or IgE/anti-IgE-activated HLMC. Proliferation was assessed by cell counts, CFSE assay and thymidine incorporation. Apoptosis and necrosis were analysed by Annexin V/propidium iodide staining using flow cytometry and by assessment of nuclear morphology using immunofluorescence. Mast cell activation was confirmed by the measurement of histamine release.
Results Using a number of techniques, we found that ASM proliferation and survival was not significantly different between cells derived from subjects with or without asthma. Co-culture with mast cells did not affect the rate of proliferation or survival of ASM cells.
Conclusion Our findings do not support a role for increased airway smooth proliferation and survival as the major mechanism driving ASM hyperplasia in asthma.
Cite this as: D. Kaur, F. Hollins, R. Saunders, L. Woodman, A. Sutcliffe, G. Cruse, P. Bradding and C. Brightling, Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 2010 (40) 279– 288.