Chitin is a surface component of parasites and insects, and chitinases are induced in lower life forms during infections with these agents. Although chitin itself does not exist in humans, chitinases are present in the human genome. We show here that acidic mammalian chitinase (AMCase) is induced via a T helper-2 (Th2)-specific, interleukin-13 (IL-13)-mediated pathway in epithelial cells and macrophages in an aeroallergen asthma model and expressed in exaggerated quantities in human asthma. AMCase neutralization ameliorated Th2 inflammation and airway hyperresponsiveness, in part by inhibiting IL-13 pathway activation and chemokine induction. AMCase may thus be an important mediator of IL-13-induced responses in Th2-dominated disorders such as asthma.
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