The loss of airway epithelial integrity contributes significantly to asthma pathogenesis. Evidence suggests that vitamin D plays an important role in the prevention and treatment of asthma. However, its role in airway epithelial barrier function remains uncertain. We have previously demonstrated impaired epithelial junctions in a model of toluene diisocyanate (TDI)-induced asthma. In the present study, we hypothesized that 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 [1,25(OH)2D3] may prevent TDI-induced epithelial barrier disruption. Male BALB/c mice were dermally sensitized and then challenged with TDI. The mice were then administered 1,25(OH)2D3 intraperitoneally prior to challenge with TDI. For in vitro experiments, 16HBE bronchial epithelial cells were cultured and stimulated with TDI-human serum albumin (HSA). The results revealed that the mice treated with 1,25(OH)2D3 displayed decreased airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR), suppressed neutrophil and eosinophil infiltration into the airways, as well as an increased E-cadherin and zonula occludens-1 (ZO-1) expression at the cell-cell contact sites. In vitro, exposure of the cells to TDI-HSA induced a rapid decline in transepithelial electrical resistance (TER) and an increase in cell permeability, followed by a decrease in occludin expression and the redistribution of E-cadherin, accompanied by a significant upregulation in the levels of phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)1/2. These effects were all partly reversed by treatment with either 1,25(OH)2D3 or an ERK1/2 inhibitor. In conclusion, the findings of our study demonstrate that 1,25(OH)2D3 prevents TDI-induced epithelial barrier disruption, and that the ERK1/2 pathway may play a role in this process.
Int J Mol Med. 2015 Jul;36(1):263-70. doi: 10.3892/ijmm.2015.2214. Epub 2015 May 19. PMID: 25998793.