Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Transplantation, Allergy and Clinical Immunology Research Group, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium; Clinical Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, University Hospitals Leuven, Leuven, Belgium; Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Electronic address: [Email]
BACKGROUND : A defective epithelial barrier is found in patients with allergic rhinitis (AR) and asthma; however, the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. Histone deacetylase (HDAC) activity has been identified as a crucial driver of allergic inflammation and tight junction dysfunction. OBJECTIVE : We investigated whether HDAC activity has been altered in patients with AR and in a mouse model of house dust mite (HDM)-induced allergic asthma and whether it contributed to epithelial barrier dysfunction. METHODS : Primary nasal epithelial cells of control subjects and patients with AR were cultured at the air-liquid interface to study transepithelial electrical resistance and paracellular flux of fluorescein isothiocyanate-dextran (4 kDa) together with mRNA expression and immunofluorescence staining of tight junctions. Air-liquid interface cultures were stimulated with different concentrations of JNJ-26481585, a broad-spectrum HDAC inhibitor. In vivo the effect of JNJ-26481585 on mucosal permeability and tight junction function was evaluated in a mouse model of HDM-induced allergic airway inflammation. RESULTS : General HDAC activity was greater in nasal epithelial cells of patients with AR and correlated inversely with epithelial integrity. Treatment of nasal epithelial cells with JNJ-26481585 restored epithelial integrity by promoting tight junction expression and protein reorganization. HDM-sensitized mice were treated with JNJ-26481585 to demonstrate the in vivo role of HDACs. Treated mice did not have allergic airway inflammation and had no bronchial hyperreactivity. Moreover, JNJ-26481585 treatment restored nasal mucosal function by promoting tight junction expression. CONCLUSIONS : Our findings identify increased HDAC activity as a potential tissue-injury mechanism responsible for dysregulated epithelial cell repair, leading to defective epithelial barriers in AR. Blocking HDAC activity is a promising novel target for therapeutic intervention in patients with airway diseases.