Mucus obstruction is a hallmark of cystic fibrosis (CF) airway disease, leading to chronic infection, dysregulated inflammation, and progressive lung disease. As mucus hyperexpression is a key component in the initiation and perpetuation of airway obstruction, the triggers underlying mucin release must be identified and understood. In this issue of the JCI, Chen et al. sought to delineate the mechanisms that allow IL-1α/IL-1β to perpetuate the mucoinflammatory environment characteristic of the CF airway. The authors demonstrated that IL-1α and IL-1β stimulated non-CF human bronchial epithelial (HBE) cells to upregulate and secrete both MUC5B and MUC5AC in a dose-dependent manner, an effect that was neutralized by the inhibition of the IL-1α/IL-1β receptor (IL-1R1). Further experiments using mouse models and excised lung tissue identified contributors that drive a vicious feedback cycle of hyperconcentrated mucus secretions and persistent inflammation in the CF airway, factors that are likely at the nidus of progressive lung disease.
Susan E. Birket, Steven M. Rowe