Calcineurin/Nuclear Factor of Activated T Cells-Coupled Vanilliod Transient Receptor Potential Channel 4 Ca2+ Sparklets Stimulate Airway Smooth Muscle Cell Proliferation

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Proliferation of airway smooth muscle cells (ASMCs) contributes to the remodeling and irreversible obstruction of airways during severe asthma, but the mechanisms underlying this disease process are poorly understood. Here we tested the hypothesis that Ca2+ influx through the vanilliod transient receptor potential channel (TRPV) 4 stimulates ASMC proliferation. We found that synthetic and endogenous TRPV4 agonists increase proliferation of primary ASMCs. Furthermore, we demonstrate that Ca2+ influx through individual TRPV4 channels produces Ca2+ microdomains in ASMCs, called “TRPV4 Ca2+ sparklets.” We also show that TRPV4 channels colocalize with the Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein phosphatase calcineurin in ASMCs. Activated calcineurin dephosphorylates nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT) transcription factors cytosolic (c) to allow nuclear translocation and activation of synthetic transcriptional pathways. We show that ASMC proliferation in response to TRPV4 activity is associated with calcineurin-dependent nuclear translocation of the NFATc3 isoform tagged with green florescent protein. Our findings suggest that Ca2+ microdomains created by TRPV4 Ca2+ sparklets activate calcineurin to stimulate nuclear translocation of NFAT and ASMC proliferation. These findings further suggest that inhibition of TRPV4 could diminish asthma-induced airway remodeling.

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