Neutrophil elastase (NE) suppresses IL-8/CXCL8 in human airway smooth muscle cells (hASM) while stimulating its production in respiratory epithelial cells. This differential effect is mediated by the selective induction of NKRF and dysregulation in chronic inflammatory diseases. We hypothesized that the differential activation of NF-κ B subunits confer the opposite effect of NKRF on IL-8/CXCL8 in primary hASM and A549 cells stimulated with NE. The events occurring at the promoters of NKRF and IL-8/CXCL8 were observed by ChIP assays, and the functional role of RelB was confirmed by knockdown and overexpression. Although p65 was stimulated in both cell types, RelB was only activated in NE-treated hASM, as confirmed by NF-κ B DNA binding ELISA, Western blotting and confocal microscopy. Knockdown of RelB abolished the induction of NKRF and converted the suppression of IL-8/CXCL8 to stimulation. The forced expression of RelB induced NKRF production in hASM and A549 cells. NE activated the NIK/IKK1/RelB non-canonical NF-κ B pathway in hASM but not in A549. The nuclear-translocated RelB was recruited to the NKRF promoter around the putative k B site, accompanied by p52 and RNA polymerase II. In conclusion, NFRF is a novel RelB-response gene, and NE is a stimulator of the non-canonical RelB/NF-κ B pathway in hASM.
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