MicroRNAs Associated with Chronic Mucus Hypersecretion in COPD Are Involved in Fibroblast-Epithelium Crosstalk

Hataitip Tasena, Wim Timens, Maarten van den Berge, Joy van Broekhuizen, Brian K Kennedy, Machteld N Hylkema, Corry-Anke Brandsma, Irene H Heijink*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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We recently identified microRNAs (miRNAs) associated with chronic mucus hypersecretion (CMH) in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which were expressed in both airway epithelial cells and fibroblasts. We hypothesized that these miRNAs are involved in communication between fibroblasts and epithelium, contributing to airway remodeling and CMH in COPD. Primary bronchial epithelial cells (PBECs) differentiated at the air-liquid interface, and airway fibroblasts (PAFs) from severe COPD patients with CMH were cultured alone or together. RNA was isolated and miRNA expression assessed. miRNAs differentially expressed after co-culturing were studied functionally using overexpression with mimics in mucus-expressing human lung A549 epithelial cells or normal human lung fibroblasts. In PBECs, we observed higher miR-708-5pexpression upon co-culture with fibroblasts, and miR-708-5p expression decreased upon mucociliary differentiation. In PAFs, let-7a-5p, miR-31-5p and miR-146a-5p expression was significantly increased upon co-culture. miR-708-5p overexpression suppressed mucin 5AC (MUC5AC) secretion in A549, while let-7a-5poverexpression suppressed its target gene COL4A1 in lung fibroblasts. Our findings suggest that let-7a-5p, miR-31-5p and miR-146a-5p may be involved in CMH via fibroblasts-epithelium crosstalk, including extracellular matrix gene regulation, while airway epithelial expression of miR-708-5p may be involved directly, regulating mucin production. These findings shed light on miRNA-mediated mechanisms underlying CMH, an important symptom in COPD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number526
Number of pages12
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1-Feb-2022


  • microRNA
  • chronic mucus hypersecretion
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

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