Asthma is a heterogeneous syndrome that has been subdivided into physiological phenotypes and molecular endotypes. The most specific phenotypic manifestation of asthma is indirect airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR), and a prominent molecular endotype is the presence of type-2 inflammation. The underlying basis for type-2 inflammation and its relationship to AHR are incompletely understood. We assessed the expression of type-2 cytokines in the airways of subjects with and without asthma who were extensively characterized for AHR. Using quantitative morphometry of the airway wall, we identified a shift in mast cells from the submucosa to the airway epithelium specifically associated with both type-2 inflammation and indirect AHR. Using ex vivo modeling of primary airway epithelial cells in organotypic co-culture with mast cells, we have shown that epithelial-derived IL-33 uniquely induced type-2 cytokines in mast cells, which regulated the expression of epithelial IL33 in a feedforward loop. This feedforward loop was accentuated in epithelial cells derived from subjects with asthma. These results demonstrate that type-2 inflammation and indirect AHR in asthma are related to a shift in mast cell infiltration to the airway epithelium, and that mast cells cooperate with epithelial cells through IL-33 signaling to regulate type-2 inflammation.
Matthew C. Altman, Ying Lai, James D. Nolin, Sydney Long, Chien-Chang Chen, Adrian M. Piliponsky, William A. Altemeier, Megan Larmore, Charles W. Frevert, Michael S. Mulligan, Steven F. Ziegler, Jason S. Debley, Michael C. Peters, Teal S. Hallstrand