Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) is an allergic inflammatory disease of the esophagus mediated by an IL-13–driven epithelial cell transcriptional program. Herein, we show that the cytoskeletal protein synaptopodin (SYNPO), previously associated with podocytes, is constitutively expressed in esophageal epithelium and induced during allergic inflammation. In addition, we show that the SYNPO gene is transcriptionally and epigenetically regulated by IL-13 in esophageal epithelial cells. SYNPO was expressed in the basal layer of homeostatic esophageal epithelium, colocalized with actin filaments, and expanded into the suprabasal epithelium in EoE patients, where expression was elevated 25-fold compared with control individuals. The expression level of SYNPO in esophageal biopsies correlated with esophageal eosinophil density and was improved following anti–IL-13 treatment in EoE patients. In esophageal epithelial cells, SYNPO gene silencing reduced epithelial motility in a wound healing model, whereas SYNPO overexpression impaired epithelial barrier integrity and reduced esophageal differentiation. Taken together, we demonstrate that SYNPO is induced by IL-13 in vitro and in vivo, is a nonredundant regulator of epithelial cell barrier function and motility, and is likely involved in EoE pathogenesis.
Mark Rochman, Jared Travers, J. Pablo Abonia, Julie M. Caldwell, Marc E. Rothenberg