Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) plays a role in chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD). Cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) can inhibit transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1) mediated EMT. Although compartmentalization via A-kinase anchoring proteins (AKAPs) is central to cAMP signaling, functional studies regarding their therapeutic value in the lung EMT process are lacking. The human bronchial epithelial cell line (BEAS-2B) and primary human airway epithelial (pHAE) cells were exposed to TGF-β1. Epithelial (E-cadherin, ZO-1) and mesenchymal markers (collagen Ӏ, α-SMA, fibronectin) were analyzed (mRNA, protein). ELISA measured TGF-β1 release. TGF-β1-sensitive AKAPs Ezrin, AKAP95 and Yotiao were silenced while using siRNA. Cell migration was analyzed by wound healing assay, xCELLigence, Incucyte. Prior to TGF-β1, dibutyryl-cAMP (dbcAMP), fenoterol, rolipram, cilostamide, and forskolin were used to elevate intracellular cAMP. TGF-β1 induced morphological changes, decreased E-cadherin, but increased collagen Ӏ and cell migration, a process that was reversed by the inhibitor of δ/epsilon casein kinase I, PF-670462. TGF-β1 altered (mRNA, protein) expression of Ezrin, AKAP95, and Yotiao. St-Ht31, the AKAP antagonist, decreased E-cadherin (mRNA, protein), but counteracted TGF-β1-induced collagen Ӏ upregulation. Cigarette smoke (CS) increased TGF-β1 release, activated TGF signaling, augmented cell migration, and reduced E-cadherin expression, a process that was blocked by TGF-β1 neutralizing antibody. The silencing of Ezrin, AKAP95, and Yotiao diminished TGF-β1-induced collagen Ӏ expression, as well as TGF-β1-induced cell migration. Fenoterol, rolipram, and cilostamide, in AKAP silenced cells, pointed to distinct cAMP compartments. We conclude that Ezrin, AKAP95, and Yotiao promote TGF-β1-mediated EMT, linked to a TGF-β1 release by CS. AKAP members might define the ability of fenoterol, rolipram, and cilostamide to modulate the EMT process, and they might represent potential relevant targets in the treatment of COPD.
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