Th1 cytokines synergize to change gene expression and promote corticosteroid insensitivity in pediatric airway smooth muscle

Devine Jackson, Joshua Walum, Priyanka Banerjee, Brandon W. Lewis, Y. S. Prakash, Venkatachalem Sathish, Zhaohui Xu, Rodney D. Britt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Corticosteroids remain a key therapy for treating children with asthma. Patients with severe asthma are insensitive, resistant, or refractory to corticosteroids and have poorly controlled symptoms that involve airway inflammation, airflow obstruction, and frequent exacerbations. While the pathways that mediate corticosteroid insensitivity in asthma remain poorly defined, recent studies suggest that enhanced Th1 pathways, mediated by TNFα and IFNγ, may play a role. We previously reported that the combined effects of TNFα and IFNγ promote corticosteroid insensitivity in developing human airway smooth muscle (ASM). Methods: To further understand the effects of TNFα and IFNγ on corticosteroid sensitivity in the context of neonatal and pediatric asthma, we performed RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) on human pediatric ASM treated with fluticasone propionate (FP), TNFα, and/or IFNγ. Results: We found that TNFα had a greater effect on gene expression (~ 1000 differentially expressed genes) than IFNγ (~ 500 differentially expressed genes). Pathway and transcription factor analyses revealed enrichment of several pro-inflammatory responses and signaling pathways. Interestingly, treatment with TNFα and IFNγ augmented gene expression with more than 4000 differentially expressed genes. Effects of TNFα and IFNγ enhanced several pro-inflammatory genes and pathways related to ASM and its contributions to asthma pathogenesis, which persisted in the presence of corticosteroids. Co-expression analysis revealed several gene networks related to TNFα- and IFNγ-mediated signaling, pro-inflammatory mediator production, and smooth muscle contractility. Many of the co-expression network hubs were associated with genes that are insensitive to corticosteroids. Conclusions: Together, these novel studies show the combined effects of TNFα and IFNγ on pediatric ASM and implicate Th1-associated cytokines in promoting ASM inflammation and hypercontractility in severe asthma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number126
JournalRespiratory Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Airway smooth muscle
  • Corticosteroids
  • IFNγ
  • TNFα

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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