Aberrant immune responses to environmental allergens including insect allergens from house dust mites and cockroaches contribute to allergic inflammatory diseases such as asthma in susceptible individuals. Airway epithelial cells (AECs) play a critical role in this process by sensing the proteolytic activity of allergens via protease-activated receptors (PAR2) to initiate inflammatory and immune responses in the airway. Elevation of cytosolic Ca2+ is an important signaling event in this process, yet the fundamental mechanism by which allergens induce Ca2+ elevations in AECs remains poorly understood. Here we find that extracts from dust mite and cockroach induce sustained Ca2+ elevations in AECs through the activation of Ca2+ release-activated Ca2+ (CRAC) channels encoded by Orai1 and STIM1. CRAC channel activation occurs, at least in part, through allergen mediated stimulation of PAR2 receptors. The ensuing Ca2+ entry then activates NFAT/calcineurin signaling to induce transcriptional production of the proinflammatory cytokines IL-6 and IL-8. These findings highlight a key role for CRAC channels as regulators of allergen induced inflammatory responses in the airway.
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