Exaggerated levels of VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) are present in persons with asthma, but the role(s) of VEGF in normal and asthmatic lungs has not been defined. We generated lung-targeted VEGF(165) transgenic mice and evaluated the role of VEGF in T-helper type 2 cell (T(H)2)-mediated inflammation. In these mice, VEGF induced, through IL-13-dependent and -independent pathways, an asthma-like phenotype with inflammation, parenchymal and vascular remodeling, edema, mucus metaplasia, myocyte hyperplasia and airway hyper-responsiveness. VEGF also enhanced respiratory antigen sensitization and T(H)2 inflammation and increased the number of activated DC2 dendritic cells. In antigen-induced inflammation, VEGF was produced by epithelial cells and preferentially by T(H)2 versus T(H)1 cells. In this setting, it had a critical role in T(H)2 inflammation, cytokine production and physiologic dysregulation. Thus, VEGF is a mediator of vascular and extravascular remodeling and inflammation that enhances antigen sensitization and is crucial in adaptive T(H)2 inflammation. VEGF regulation may be therapeutic in asthma and other T(H)2 disorders.
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