We have previously demonstrated that upregulation of Sonic hedgehog (SHH) expression in allergic airway epithelia essentially contributes to the goblet cell metaplasia and mucous hypersecretion. However, mechanism underlying the upregulation of SHH expression remains completely unknown. In cultured human airway epithelial cells, IL-4/IL-13 but not IL-5 robustly induces the mRNA and protein expression of SHH and in turn activates SHH signaling by promoting the JAK/STAT6-controlling transcription of SHH gene. Moreover, intratracheal instillation of IL-4 and/or IL-13 robustly activates STAT6 and concomitantly upregulates SHH expression in mouse airway epithelia, whereas in CC10-positive airway epithelial cells of children with asthma, activated STAT6 closely correlates with the increased expression of SHH and high activity of SHH signaling. Finally, intratracheal inhibition of STAT6 by AS1517499 significantly diminished the allergen-induced upregulation of SHH expression, goblet cell phenotypes, and airway hyperresponsiveness, in an ovalbumin- or house dust mite-induced mouse model with allergic airway inflammation. Together, upregulation of SHH expression by IL-4/IL-13-induced JAK/STAT6 signaling contributes to allergic airway epithelial remodeling, and this study thus provides insight into how morphogen signaling is coordinated with Th2 cytokine pathways to regulate tissue remodeling in chronic airway diseases.
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