Acute regulation of tight junction ion selectivity in human airway epithelia

Andrea N. Flynn, Omar A. Itani, Thomas O. Moninger, Michael J. Welsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Electrolyte transport through and between airway epithelial cells controls the quantity and composition of the overlying liquid. Many studies have shown acute regulation of transcellular ion transport in airway epithelia. However, whether ion transport through tight junctions can also be acutely regulated is poorly understood both in airway and other epithelia. To investigate the paracellular pathway, we used primary cultures of differentiated human airway epithelia and assessed expression of claudins, the primary determinants of paracellular permeability, and measured transepithelial electrical properties, ion fluxes, and La3+ movement. Like many other tissues, airway epithelia expressed multiple claudins. Moreover, different cell types in the epithelium expressed the same pattern of claudins. To evaluate tight junction regulation, we examined the response to histamine, an acute regulator of airway function. Histamine stimulated a rapid and transient increase in the paracellular Na+ conductance, with a smaller increase in Cl - conductance. The increase was mediated by histamine H1 receptors and depended on an increase in intracellular Ca2+ concentration. These results suggest that ion flow through the paracellular pathway can be acutely regulated. Such regulation could facilitate coupling of the passive flow of counter ions to active transcellular transport, thereby controlling net transepithelial salt and water transport.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3591-3596
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number9
StatePublished - Mar 3 2009


  • Claudin
  • Histamine
  • Paracellular pathway


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