Hyaluronan serves a novel role in airway mucosal host defense

Rosanna Forteza, Thomas Lieb, Teresa Aoki, Rashmin C. Savani, Gregory E. Conner, Matthias Salathe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


Enzymes secreted onto epithelial surfaces play a vital role in innate mucosal defense, but are believed to be steadily removed from the surface by mechanical actions. Thus, the amount and availability of enzymes on the surface are thought to be maintained by secretion. In contrast to this paradigm, we show here that enzymes are retained at the apical surface of the airway epithelium by binding to surface-associated hyaluronan, providing an apical enzyme pool 'ready for use' and protected from ciliary clearance. We have studied lactoperoxidase, which prevents bacterial colonization of the airway, and kallikrein, which mediates allergic bronchoconstriction that limits the inhalation of noxious substances. Binding to hyaluronan inhibits kallikrein, which is needed only in certain situations, whereas lactoperoxidase, useful at all times, does not change its activity. Hyaluronan itself interacts with the receptor for hyaluronic acid-mediated motility (RHAMM or CD168) that is expressed at the apex of ciliated airway epithelial cells. Functionally, hyaluronan binding to RHAMM stimulates ciliary beating. Thus, hyaluronan plays a previously unrecognized pivotal role in mucosal host defense by stimulating ciliary clearance of foreign material while simultaneously retaining enzymes important for homeostasis at the apical surface so that they cannot be removed by ciliary action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2179-2186
Number of pages8
JournalFASEB Journal
Issue number12
StatePublished - Oct 16 2001


  • Airway
  • Cilia
  • Epithelium
  • Kallikrein
  • Lactoperoxidase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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