Epigenetic responses to rhinovirus exposure in airway epithelial cells are correlated with key transcriptional pathways in chronic rhinosinusitis

Marcus M. Soliai*, Atsushi Kato, Katherine A. Naughton, James E. Norton, Aiko I. Klinger, Robert C Kern, Bruce Kuang-Huay Tan, Dan L. Nicolae, Robert P. Schleimer, Carole Ober*, Jayant M. Pinto*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Viruses may drive immune mechanisms responsible for chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyposis (CRSwNP), but little is known about the underlying molecular mechanisms. Objectives: To identify epigenetic and transcriptional responses to a common upper respiratory pathogen, rhinovirus (RV), that are specific to patients with CRSwNP using a primary sinonasal epithelial cell culture model. Methods: Airway epithelial cells were collected at surgery from patients with CRSwNP (cases) and from controls without sinus disease, cultured, and then exposed to RV or vehicle for 48 h. Differential gene expression and DNA methylation (DNAm) between cases and controls in response to RV were determined using linear mixed models. Weighted gene co-expression analysis (WGCNA) was used to identify (a) co-regulated gene expression and DNAm signatures, and (b) genes, pathways, and regulatory mechanisms specific to CRSwNP. Results: We identified 5585 differential transcriptional and 261 DNAm responses (FDR <0.10) to RV between CRSwNP cases and controls. These differential responses formed three co-expression/co-methylation modules that were related to CRSwNP and three that were related to RV (Bonferroni corrected p <.01). Most (95%) of the differentially methylated CpGs (DMCs) were in modules related to CRSwNP, whereas the differentially expressed genes (DEGs) were more equally distributed between the CRSwNP- and RV-related modules. Genes in the CRSwNP-related modules were enriched in known CRS and/or viral response immune pathways. Conclusion: RV activates specific epigenetic programs and correlated transcriptional networks in the sinonasal epithelium of individuals with CRSwNP. These novel observations suggest epigenetic signatures specific to patients with CRSwNP modulate response to viral pathogens at the mucosal environmental interface. Determining how viral response pathways are involved in epithelial inflammation in CRSwNP could lead to therapeutic targets for this burdensome airway disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAllergy: European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • airway epithelium
  • chronic rhinosinusitis
  • DNA methylation
  • gene expression
  • nasal polyposis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


Dive into the research topics of 'Epigenetic responses to rhinovirus exposure in airway epithelial cells are correlated with key transcriptional pathways in chronic rhinosinusitis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this