Airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR) affects 55%-77% of children with sickle cell disease (SCD) and occurs even in the absence of asthma. While asthma increases SCD morbidity and mortality, the mechanisms underlying the high AHR prevalence in a hemoglobinopathy remain unknown. We hypothesized that placenta growth factor (PlGF), an erythroblast-secreted factor that is elevated in SCD, mediates AHR. In allergen-exposed mice, loss of Plgf dampened AHR, reduced inflammation and eosinophilia, and decreased expression of the Th2 cytokine IL-13 and the leukotriene-synthesizing enzymes 5-lipoxygenase and leukotriene-C4-synthase. Plgf-/- mice treated with leukotrienes phenocopied the WT response to allergen exposure; conversely, anti-PlGF Ab administration in WT animals blunted the AHR. Notably, Th2-mediated STAT6 activation further increased PlGF expression from lung epithelium, eosinophils, and macrophages, creating a PlGF/leukotriene/Th2-response positive feedback loop. Similarly, we found that the Th2 response in asthma patients is associated with increased expression of PlGF and its downstream genes in respiratory epithelial cells. In an SCD mouse model, we observed increased AHR and higher leukotriene levels that were abrogated by anti-PlGF Ab or the 5-lipoxygenase inhibitor zileuton. Overall, our findings indicate that PlGF exacerbates AHR and uniquely links the leukotriene and Th2 pathways in asthma. These data also suggest that zileuton and anti-PlGF Ab could be promising therapies to reduce pulmonary morbidity in SCD.
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