Novel identification of the free fatty acid receptor FFAR1 that promotes contraction in airway smooth muscle

Kentaro Mizuta, Yi Zhang, Fumiko Mizuta, Hiroshi Hoshijima, Toshiya Shiga, Eiji Masaki, Charles W. Emala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Obesity is one of the major risk factors for asthma. Previous studies have demonstrated that free fatty acid levels are elevated in the plasma of obese individuals. Medium- and long-chain free fatty acids act as endogenous ligands for the free fatty acid receptors FFAR1/GPR40 and FFAR4/GPR120, which couple to Gq proteins. We investigated whether FFAR1 and FFAR4 are expressed on airway smooth muscle and whether they activate Gq-coupled signaling and modulate airway smooth muscle tone. We detected the protein expression of FFAR1 and FFAR4 in freshly dissected native human and guinea pig airway smooth muscle and cultured human airway smooth muscle (HASM) cells by immunoblotting and immunohistochemistry. The long-chain free fatty acids (oleic acid and linoleic acid) and GW9508 (FFAR1/ FFAR4 dual agonist) dose-dependently stimulated transient intracellular Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i) increases and inositol phosphate synthesis in HASM cells. Downregulation of FFAR1 or FFAR4 in HASM cells by small interfering RNA led to a significant inhibition of the long-chain free fatty acids-induced transient [Ca2+]i increases. Oleic acid, linoleic acid, or GW9508 stimulated stress fiber formation in HASM cells, potentiated acetylcholine-contracted guinea pig tracheal rings, and attenuated the relaxant effect of isoproterenol after an acetylcholine-induced contraction. In contrast, TUG-891 (FFAR4 agonist) did not induce the stress fiber formation or potentiate acetylcholine- induced contraction. These results suggest that FFAR1 is the functionally dominant free fatty acid receptor in both human and guinea pig airway smooth muscle. The free fatty acid sensors expressed on airway smooth muscle could be an important modulator of airway smooth muscle tone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L970-L982
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Airway smooth muscle
  • FFAR1
  • FFAR4
  • Free fatty acid
  • G-coupled receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


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