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Ca2+ entry into airway epithelia is important for activation of the NFAT family of transcription factors and expression of genes including epidermal growth factor that help orchestrate local inflammatory responses. However, the identity of epithelial Ca2+ channel that activates these transcriptional responses is unclear. In many other non-excitable cells, store-operated Ca2+ entry is a major route for Ca2+ influx and is mediated by STIM1 and Orai1 proteins. This study was performed to determine if store-operated Ca2+ channels were expressed in human bronchial epithelial cells and, if so, whether they coupled Ca2+ entry to gene expression. Cytoplasmic Ca2+ measurements, patch clamp recordings, RNAi knockdown and functional assays were used to identify and then investigate the role of these Ca2+ channels in activating the NFAT and c-fos pathways and EGF expression. STIM1 and Orai1 mRNA transcripts as well as proteins were robustly in epithelial cells and formed functional Ca2+ channels. Ca2+ entry through the channels activated expression of c-fos and EGF as well as an NFAT-dependent reporter gene. Store-operated Ca2+ entry was also important for epithelial cell migration in a scrape wound assay. These findings indicate that store-operated Ca2+ channels play an important role in stimulating airway epithelial cell gene expression and therefore comprise a novel potential therapeutic target for the treatment of chronic asthma and related airway disorders.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Bronchi, Calcium, Calcium Channels, Calcium Signaling, Cell Line, Cell Movement, Epidermal Growth Factor, Epithelial Cells, Genes, fos, Humans, Membrane Proteins, NFATC Transcription Factors, Neoplasm Proteins, ORAI1 Protein, Stromal Interaction Molecule 1, Transcriptional Activation