Elastase alters contractility and promotes an inflammatory synthetic phenotype in airway smooth muscle tissues

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations


Neutrophil elastase is secreted by inflammatory cells during airway inflammation and can elicit airway hyperreactivity in vivo. Elastase can degrade multiple components of the extracellular matrix. We hypothesized that elastase might disrupt the connections between airway smooth muscle (ASM) cells and the extracellular matrix and that this might have direct effects on ASM tissue responsiveness and inflammation. The effect of elastase treatment on ASM contractility was assessed in vitro in isolated strips of canine tracheal smooth muscle by stimulation of tissues with cumulatively increasing concentrations of acetylcholine (ACh) and measurement of contractile force. Elastase treatment potentiated contractile responses to ACh at low concentrations but suppressed the maximal contractile force generated by the tissues without affecting the phosphorylation of myosin regulatory light chain (RLC). Elastase also promoted the secretion of eotaxin and the activation of Akt in ASM tissues and decreased expression of smooth muscle myosin heavy chain, consistent with promotion of a synthetic inflammatory phenotype. As the degradation of matrix proteins can alter integrin engagement, we evaluated the effect of elastase on the assembly and activation of integrin-associated adhesion junction complexes in ASM tissues. Elastase led to talin cleavage, reduced talin binding to vinculin, and suppressed activation of the adhesome proteins paxillin, focal adhesion kinase, and vinculin, indicating that elastase causes the disassembly of adhesion junction complexes and the inactivation of adhesome signaling proteins. We conclude that elastase promotes an inflammatory phenotype and increased sensitivity to ACh in ASM tissues by disrupting signaling pathways mediated by integrin-associated adhesion complexes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L626-L634
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2018


  • Adhesion junction complexes
  • Airway smooth muscle
  • Cytoskeleton
  • Inflammation
  • Neutrophil elastase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology

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