CD44V3-positive intermediate progenitor cells contribute to airway goblet cell hyperplasia

Sang Nam Lee, Su Jin Kim, Seol Ah Yoon, Ji Min Song, Ji Suk Ahn, Hyung Chul Kim, Augustine M.K. Choi, Joo Heon Yoon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


In allergic airway diseases, intermediate progenitor cells (IPCs) increase in number in the surface epithelium. IPCs arise from basal cells, the origin of hallmark pathological changes, including goblet cell hyperplasia and mucus hypersecretion. Thus, targeting IPCs will benefit future treatment of allergic airway diseases. However, the lack of adequate cell surface markers for IPCs limits their identification and characterization. We now show that CD44 containing exon v3 (CD44v3) is a surface marker for IPCs that are capable of both proliferating and generating differentiated goblet cells in allergic human nasal epithelium. In primary human nasal epithelial cells that had differentiated at an air-liquid interface, IL-4 upregulated mRNA expression of three CD44v variants that include exon v3 (CD44v3-v6, CD44v3,v8-v10, and CD44v3-v10), and it induced expression of CD44v3 protein in the basal and suprabasal layers of the culture. FACS analysis revealed two subpopulations differing in CD44v3 concentrations, as follows: CD44v3low cells expressed high amounts of proliferative and basal cell markers (Ki-67 and TP63), whereas CD44v3high cells strongly expressed progenitor and immature and mature goblet cell markers (SOX2, CA2, and SPDEF). Importantly, a blocking anti-CD44 antibody suppressed IL-4-induced mucin production by human nasal epithelial cells. Furthermore, CD44v3 was coexpressed with TP63, KRT5, or SOX2 and was upregulated in the basal and suprabasal layers of the nasal surface epithelium of subjects with allergic rhinitis. Taken together, these data demonstrate that high CD44v3 expression contributes to goblet cell hyperplasia in inflammation of the allergic airway.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-259
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Allergic airway disease
  • CD44
  • Human nasal epithelial cells
  • Interleukin-4
  • Intermediate progenitor cells
  • Epithelial Cells/metabolism
  • Hyperplasia/metabolism
  • Up-Regulation/physiology
  • Humans
  • Respiratory System/metabolism
  • Cell Proliferation/physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Inflammation/metabolism
  • Hyaluronan Receptors/metabolism
  • Biomarkers/metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger/genetics
  • Stem Cells/metabolism
  • Nasal Mucosa/metabolism
  • Goblet Cells/metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation/physiology
  • Hypersensitivity/metabolism
  • Mucins/metabolism
  • Exons/genetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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