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The non-genomic mechanisms by which glucocorticoids modulate β2 agonist-induced-bronchodilation remain elusive. Our studies aimed to elucidate mechanisms mediating the beneficial effects of glucocorticoids on agonist-induced bronchodilation. Utilizing human precision cut lung slices (hPCLS), we measured bronchodilation to formoterol, prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), cholera toxin (CTX) or forskolin in the presence and absence of budesonide. Using cultured human airway smooth muscle (HASM), intracellular cAMP was measured in live cells following exposure to formoterol, PGE2, or forskolin in the presence or absence of budesonide. We showed that simultaneous budesonide administration amplified formoterol-induced bronchodilation and attenuated agonist-induced phosphorylation of myosin light chain, a necessary signaling event mediating force generation. In parallel studies, cAMP levels were augmented by simultaneous exposure of HASM cells to formoterol and budesonide. Budesonide, fluticasone and prednisone alone rapidly increased cAMP levels, but steroids alone had little effect on bronchodilation in hPCLS. Bronchodilation induced by PGE2, CTX or forskolin was also augmented by simultaneous exposure to budesonide in hPCLS. Furthermore, HASM cells expressed membrane-bound glucocorticoid receptors that failed to translocate with glucocorticoid stimulation, and that potentially mediated the rapid effects of steroids on β2 agonist-induced bronchodilation. Knockdown of glucocorticoid receptor α had little effect on budesonide-induced and steroid-dependent augmentation of formoterol-induced cAMP generation in HASM. Collectively, these studies suggest that glucocorticoids amplify cAMP-dependent bronchodilation by directly increasing cAMP levels. These studies identify a molecular mechanism by which the combination of glucocorticoids and β2 agonists may augment bronchodilation in diseases such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in American Journal of Physiology-Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology, volume 318, issue 2, in 2020 following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version is available online at


American Physiological Society



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