Over 300 million people in the world live with asthma, resulting in 500,000 annual global deaths with future increases expected. It is estimated that around 50–80% of asthma exacerbations are due to viral infections. Currently, a combination of long-acting beta agonists (LABA) for bronchodilation and glucocorticoids (GCS) to control lung inflammation represent the dominant strategy for the management of asthma, however, it is still sub-optimal in 35–50% of moderate-severe asthmatics resulting in persistent lung inflammation, impairment of lung function, and risk of mortality. Mechanistically, LABA/GCS combination therapy results in synergistic efficacy mediated by intracellular cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP).
Increasing intracellular cAMP during LABA/GCS combination therapy via inhibiting phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE4) and/or blocking the export of cAMP by ATP Binding Cassette Transporter C4 (ABCC4), will potentiate anti-inflammatory responses of mainstay LABA/GCS therapy.
Expression and localization experiments were performed using in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry in human lung tissue from healthy subjects, while confirmatory transcript and protein expression analyses were performed in primary human airway epithelial cells and cell lines. Intervention experiments were performed on the human airway epithelial cell line, HBEC-6KT, by pre-treatment with combinations of LABA/GCS with PDE4 and/or ABCC4 inhibitors followed by Poly I:C or imiquimod challenge as a model for viral stimuli. Cytokine readouts for IL-6, IL-8, CXCL10/IP-10, and CCL5/RANTES were quantified by ELISA.
Using archived human lung and human airway epithelial cells, ABCC4 gene and protein expression were confirmed in vitro and in situ. LABA/GCS attenuation of Poly I:C or imiquimod-induced IL-6 and IL-8 were potentiated with ABCC4 and PDE4 inhibition, which was greater when ABCC4 and PDE4 inhibition was combined. Modulation of cAMP levels had no impact on LABA/GCS modulation of Poly I:C-induced CXCL10/IP-10 or CCL5/RANTES.
Modulation of intracellular cAMP levels by PDE4 or ABCC4 inhibition potentiates LABA/GCS efficacy in human airway epithelial cells challenged with viral stimuli. The data suggest further exploration of the value of adding cAMP modulators to mainstay LABA/GCS therapy in asthma for potentiated anti-inflammatory efficacy.