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    Expression of surfactant protein (SP)-B, which assures the structural stability of the pulmonary surfactant film, is influenced by various stimuli, including glucocorticoids; however, the role that cell-cell contact plays in SP-B transcription remains unknown. The aim of the current study was to investigate the impact of cell-cell contact on SP-B mRNA and mature SP-B expression in the lung epithelial cell line H441. Different quantities of H441 cells per growth area were either left untreated or incubated with dexamethasone. The expression of SP-B, SP-B transcription factors, and tight junction proteins were determined by qPCR and immunoblotting. The influence of cell density on SP-B mRNA stability was investigated using the transcription inhibitor actinomycin D. SP-B mRNA and mature SP-B expression levels were significantly elevated in untreated and dexamethasone-treated H441 cells with increasing cell density. High cell density as a sole stimulus was found to barely have an impact on SP-B transcription factor and tight junction mRNA levels, while its stimulatory ability on SP-B mRNA expression could be mimicked using SP-B-negative cells. SP-B mRNA stability was significantly increased in high-density cells, but not by dexamethasone alone. SP-B expression in H441 cells is dependent on cell-cell contact, which increases mRNA stability and thereby potentiates the glucocorticoid-mediated induction of transcription. Loss of cell integrity might contribute to reduced SP-B secretion in damaged lung cells via downregulation of SP-B transcription. Cell density-mediated effects should thus receive greater attention in future cell culture-based research.


    Markus Fehrholz, Silvia Seidenspinner, Steffen Kunzmann. Expression of surfactant protein B is dependent on cell density in H441 lung epithelial cells. PloS one. 2017;12(9):e0184556

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    PMID: 28910374

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