Airway epithelial cell response to RSV is mostly impaired in goblet and multiciliated cells in asthma

Aurore C A Gay, Martin Banchero, Orestes Carpaij, Tessa M Kole, Leonie Apperloo, Djoke van Gosliga, Putri Ayu Fajar, Gerard H Koppelman, Louis Bont, Rudi W Hendriks, Maarten van den Berge, Martijn C Nawijn

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BACKGROUND: In patients with asthma, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections can cause disease exacerbation by infecting the epithelial layer of the airways, inducing subsequent immune response. The type I interferon antiviral response of epithelial cells upon RSV infection is found to be reduced in asthma in most-but not all-studies. Moreover, the molecular mechanisms causing the differences in the asthmatic bronchial epithelium in response to viral infection are poorly understood.

METHODS: Here, we investigated the transcriptional response to RSV infection of primary bronchial epithelial cells (pBECs) from patients with asthma (n=8) and healthy donors (n=8). The pBECs obtained from bronchial brushes were differentiated in air-liquid interface conditions and infected with RSV. After 3 days, cells were processed for single-cell RNA sequencing.

RESULTS: A strong antiviral response to RSV was observed for all cell types, for all samples (p<1e-48). Most (1045) differentially regulated genes following RSV infection were found in cells transitioning to secretory cells. Goblet cells from patients with asthma showed lower expression of genes involved in the interferon response (false discovery rate <0.05), including OASL, ICAM1 and TNFAIP3. In multiciliated cells, an impairment of the signalling pathways involved in the response to RSV in asthma was observed.

CONCLUSION: Our results highlight that the response to RSV infection of the bronchial epithelium in asthma and healthy airways was largely similar. However, in asthma, the response of goblet and multiciliated cells is impaired, highlighting the need for studying airway epithelial cells at high resolution in the context of asthma exacerbation.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19-Feb-2024

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