Research ArticlePhysiology

Mechanosensitive ATP Release Maintains Proper Mucus Hydration of Airways

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Science Signaling  11 Jun 2013:
Vol. 6, Issue 279, pp. ra46
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2003755

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Keeping the Airways Clear

Mucus in airways traps foreign particles and can be cleared in part by the beating of cilia on the epithelial cells that line airways. Button et al. investigated how mucus hydration is maintained to ensure that mucus is efficiently cleared from lungs. Treatments that increased the concentration of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) or adenosine in human airway epithelial cultures resulted in increased mucus hydration. Application of a mimic of dehydrated mucus to human airway epithelial cultures triggered ATP release, a response that also occurred when mechanical force was applied to the cultures, suggesting that the mechanical strain imposed on cilia by dehydrated mucus induced ATP release. ATP and other nucleosides bind to purinergic receptors, which regulate fluid secretion and absorption, and these receptors showed a reduced response to sustained ligand exposure over time, suggesting a means by which to prevent uncontrolled fluid secretion and airway flooding. These results highlight an autoregulatory mechanism that ensures hydration of the mucus layer on airway epithelia is optimally maintained.

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