Expression of c-erbB receptors and ligands in human bronchial mucosa

Riccardo Polosa*, Gaetano Prosperini, Shih Hsing Leir, Stephen T. Holgate, Peter M. Lackie, Donna E. Davies

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Scopus citations


The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR, c-erbBl) plays a pivotal role in maintenance and repair of epithelial tissues; however, little is known about coexpression of c-erbB receptors and their ligands in human bronchial epithelium. We therefore analyzed the expression of these molecules in cultured bronchial epithelial cells and normal bronchial mucosa, using reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), flow cytometry, and immunohistochemistry. Messenger RNA (mRNA) encoding EGFR, c-erbB2, and c-erbB3, but not c-erbB4, was detected in primary cultures of human bronchial epithelial cells, as well as in the human bronchial epithelial-derived cell lines H292 and 16HBE 14o-. Transcripts encoding epidermal growth factor (EGF), heparin binding epidermal growth factor (HB-EGF), transforming growth factor-α (TGF-α), and amphiregulin (AR) were also detected, and expression of the three receptors and four ligands was confirmed by immunocytochemical staining of the cultured cells. Immunohistochemical analysis of resin-or paraffin-embedded sections from surgical specimens of bronchial mucosa revealed strong membrane staining for EGFR within the bronchial epithelium; this was particularly evident between basal cells and the basal aspect of columnar cells. The patterns of staining for c-erbB2 and c-erbB3 in the bronchial epithelium were similar to those for EGFR. Immunostaining for EGF, TGF-α, AR, HB-EGF, and betacellulin (BTC) was intense in the submucosal glands; with the exception of BTC, EGFR ligand immunoreactivity was also observed in the bronchial epithelium, where it paralleled EGFR staining. Colocalization of c-erbB receptors and ligands demonstrates the potential for productive c-erbB receptor interactions in bronchial epithelium. Further study of these interactions may help to define their role in maintenance and repair of the bronchial epithelium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)914-923
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican journal of respiratory cell and molecular biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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