FFAR1 activation attenuates histamine-induced myosin light chain phosphorylation and cortical tension development in human airway smooth muscle cells

Shengjie Xu, Anthony Schwab, Nikhil Karmacharya, Gaoyuan Cao, Joanna Woo, Nicholas Kim, Steven S. An, Reynold A. Panettieri, Joseph A. Jude

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Activation of free fatty acid receptors (FFAR1 and FFAR4) which are G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) with established (patho)physiological roles in a variety of obesity-related disorders, induce human airway smooth muscle (HASM) cell proliferation and shortening. We reported amplified agonist-induced cell shortening in HASM cells obtained from obese lung donors. We hypothesized that FFAR1 modulate excitation–contraction (EC) coupling in HASM cells and play a role in obesity-associated airway hyperresponsiveness. Methods: In HASM cells pre-treated (30 min) with FFAR1 agonists TAK875 and GW9508, we measured histamine-induced Ca2+ mobilization, myosin light chain (MLC) phosphorylation, and cortical tension development with magnetic twisting cytometry (MTC). Phosphorylation of MLC phosphatase and Akt also were determined in the presence of the FFAR1 agonists or vehicle. In addition, the effects of TAK875 on MLC phosphorylation were measured in HASM cells desensitized to β2AR agonists by overnight salmeterol treatment. The inhibitory effect of TAK875 on MLC phosphorylation was compared between HASM cells from age and sex-matched non-obese and obese human lung donors. The mean measurements were compared using One-Way ANOVA with Dunnett’s test for multiple group comparisons or Student’s t-test two-group comparison. For cortical tension measurements by magnetic twisted cytometry, mixed effect model using SAS V.9.2 was applied. Means were considered significant when p ≤ 0.05. Results: Unexpectedly, we found that TAK875, a synthetic FFAR1 agonist, attenuated histamine-induced MLC phosphorylation and cortical tension development in HASM cells. These physiological outcomes were unassociated with changes in histamine-evoked Ca2+ flux, protein kinase B (AKT) activation, or MLC phosphatase inhibition. Of note, TAK875-mediated inhibition of MLC phosphorylation was maintained in β2AR-desensitized HASM cells and across obese and non-obese donor-derived HASM cells. Conclusions: Taken together, our findings identified the FFAR1 agonist TAK875 as a novel bronchoprotective agent that warrants further investigation to treat difficult-to-control asthma and/or airway hyperreactivity in obesity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number317
JournalRespiratory research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Airway hyperresponsiveness
  • Airway smooth muscle
  • Free fatty acid receptor 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine

Cite this