Epithelial cells that line the conducting airways provide the initial barrier and innate immune responses to the abundant particles, microbes, and allergens that are inhaled throughout life. The transcription factors SPDEF and FOXA3 are both selectively expressed in epithelial cells lining the conducting airways, where they regulate goblet cell differentiation and mucus production. Moreover, these transcription factors are upregulated in chronic lung disorders, including asthma. Here, we show that expression of SPDEF or FOXA3 in airway epithelial cells in neonatal mice caused goblet cell differentiation, spontaneous eosinophilic inflammation, and airway hyperresponsiveness to methacholine. SPDEF expression promoted DC recruitment and activation in association with induction of Il33, Csf2, thymic stromal lymphopoietin (Tslp), and Ccl20 transcripts. Increased Il4, Il13, Ccl17, and Il25 expression was accompanied by recruitment of Th2 lymphocytes, group 2 innate lymphoid cells, and eosinophils to the lung. SPDEF was required for goblet cell differentiation and pulmonary Th2 inflammation in response to house dust mite (HDM) extract, as both were decreased in neonatal and adult Spdef–/– mice compared with control animals. Together, our results indicate that SPDEF causes goblet cell differentiation and Th2 inflammation during postnatal development and is required for goblet cell metaplasia and normal Th2 inflammatory responses to HDM aeroallergen.


Priya Rajavelu, Gang Chen, Yan Xu, Joseph A. Kitzmiller, Thomas R. Korfhagen, Jeffrey A. Whitsett


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