Mucins are major macromolecular components of lung mucus that are mainly responsible for the viscoelastic property of mucus. MUC5AC is a major mucin glycoprotein that is hypersecreted in asthmatic individuals. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) has been implicated in inflammatory and airway blood vessel remodeling in asthmatics. Our previous studies indicate that VEGF upregulates MUC5AC expression by interacting with VEGF receptor 2 (VEGFR2). It has been shown that dexamethasone (Dex) downregulates MUC5AC expression; however, the underlying mechanisms have not been completely elucidated. Therefore, we sought to investigate the effect of Dex on MUC5AC expression induced by VEGF and study the underlying mechanisms. We tested the effects of Dex on VEGFR2 and RhoA activation, caveolin-1 expression, and the association of caveolin-1 and VEGFR2 in primary bronchial epithelial cells. Dex downregulated MUC5AC mRNA and protein levels in a dose- and time-dependent manner, and suppressed the activation of VEGFR2 and RhoA induced by VEGF. Additionally, Dex upregulated caveolin-1 protein levels in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Furthermore, phospho-VEGFR2 expression was decreased through overexpression of caveolin-1 and increased after caveolin-1 knockdown. Dex treatment attenuated the VEGF-decreased association of caveolin-1 and VEGFR2. Collectively, our findings suggest that Dex downregulates VEGF-induced MUC5AC expression by inactivating VEGFR2 and RhoA. Furthermore, decreased MUC5AC expression by Dex was related to the increased association of caveolin-1 with VEGFR2. Further studies characterizing these mechanisms are required to facilitate the development of improved treatment strategies for asthma.Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier Inc.
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