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1.  Persistence of Smoking-Induced Dysregulation of MiRNA Expression in the Small Airway Epithelium Despite Smoking Cessation 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(4):e0120824.
Even after quitting smoking, the risk of the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer remains significantly higher compared to healthy nonsmokers. Based on the knowledge that COPD and most lung cancers start in the small airway epithelium (SAE), we hypothesized that smoking modulates miRNA expression in the SAE linked to the pathogenesis of smoking-induced airway disease, and that some of these changes persist after smoking cessation. SAE was collected from 10th to 12th order bronchi using fiberoptic bronchoscopy. Affymetrix miRNA 2.0 arrays were used to assess miRNA expression in the SAE from 9 healthy nonsmokers and 10 healthy smokers, before and after they quit smoking for 3 months. Smoking status was determined by urine nicotine and cotinine measurement. There were significant differences in the expression of 34 miRNAs between healthy smokers and healthy nonsmokers (p<0.01, fold-change >1.5), with functions associated with lung development, airway epithelium differentiation, inflammation and cancer. After quitting smoking for 3 months, 12 out of the 34 miRNAs did not return to normal levels, with Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway being the top identified enriched pathway of the target genes of the persistent dysregulated miRNAs. In the context that many of these persistent smoking-dependent miRNAs are associated with differentiation, inflammatory diseases or lung cancer, it is likely that persistent smoking-related changes in SAE miRNAs play a role in the subsequent development of these disorders.
PMCID: PMC4401720  PMID: 25886353
2.  Intraflagellar Transport Gene Expression Associated with Short Cilia in Smoking and COPD 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e85453.
Smoking and COPD are associated with decreased mucociliary clearance, and healthy smokers have shorter cilia in the large airway than nonsmokers. We hypothesized that changes in cilia length are consistent throughout the airway, and we further hypothesized that smokers with COPD have shorter cilia than healthy smokers. Because intraflagellar transport (IFT) is the process by which cilia of normal length are produced and maintained, and alterations in IFT lead to short cilia in model organisms, we also hypothesized that smoking induces changes in the expression of IFT-related genes in the airway epithelium of smokers and smokers with COPD. To assess these hypotheses, airway epithelium was obtained via bronchoscopic brushing. Cilia length was assessed by measuring 100 cilia (10 cilia on each of 10 cells) per subject and Affymetrix microarrays were used to evaluate IFT gene expression in nonsmokers and healthy smokers in 2 independent data sets from large and small airway as well as in COPD smokers in a data set from the small airway. In the large and small airway epithelium, cilia were significantly shorter in healthy smokers than nonsmokers, and significantly shorter in COPD smokers than in both healthy smokers and nonsmokers. The gene expression data confirmed that a set of 8 IFT genes were down-regulated in smokers in both data sets; however, no differences were seen in COPD smokers compared to healthy smokers. These results support the concept that loss of cilia length contributes to defective mucociliary clearance in COPD, and that smoking-induced changes in expression of IFT genes may be one mechanism of abnormally short cilia in smokers. Strategies to normalize cilia length may be an important avenue for novel COPD therapies.
PMCID: PMC3896362  PMID: 24465567
3.  Determination of the Human Cardiomyocyte mRNA and miRNA Differentiation Network by Fine-Scale Profiling 
Stem Cells and Development  2011;21(11):1956-1965.
To gain insight into the molecular regulation of human heart development, a detailed comparison of the mRNA and miRNA transcriptomes across differentiating human-induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC)–derived cardiomyocytes and biopsies from fetal, adult, and hypertensive human hearts was performed. Gene ontology analysis of the mRNA expression levels of the hiPSCs differentiating into cardiomyocytes revealed 3 distinct groups of genes: pluripotent specific, transitional cardiac specification, and mature cardiomyocyte specific. Hierarchical clustering of the mRNA data revealed that the transcriptome of hiPSC cardiomyocytes largely stabilizes 20 days after initiation of differentiation. Nevertheless, analysis of cells continuously cultured for 120 days indicated that the cardiomyocytes continued to mature toward a more adult-like gene expression pattern. Analysis of cardiomyocyte-specific miRNAs (miR-1, miR-133a/b, and miR-208a/b) revealed an miRNA pattern indicative of stem cell to cardiomyocyte specification. A biostatistitical approach integrated the miRNA and mRNA expression profiles revealing a cardiomyocyte differentiation miRNA network and identified putative mRNAs targeted by multiple miRNAs. Together, these data reveal the miRNA network in human heart development and support the notion that overlapping miRNA networks re-enforce transcriptional control during developmental specification.
PMCID: PMC4048009  PMID: 22050602
4.  Bleomycin Induces Molecular Changes Directly Relevant to Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis: A Model for “Active” Disease 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e59348.
The preclinical model of bleomycin-induced lung fibrosis, used to investigate mechanisms related to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), has incorrectly predicted efficacy for several candidate compounds suggesting that it may be of limited value. As an attempt to improve the predictive nature of this model, integrative bioinformatic approaches were used to compare molecular alterations in the lungs of bleomycin-treated mice and patients with IPF. Using gene set enrichment analysis we show for the first time that genes differentially expressed during the fibrotic phase of the single challenge bleomycin model were significantly enriched in the expression profiles of IPF patients. The genes that contributed most to the enrichment were largely involved in mitosis, growth factor, and matrix signaling. Interestingly, these same mitotic processes were increased in the expression profiles of fibroblasts isolated from rapidly progressing, but not slowly progressing, IPF patients relative to control subjects. The data also indicated that TGFβ was not the sole mediator responsible for the changes observed in this model since the ALK-5 inhibitor SB525334 effectively attenuated some but not all of the fibrosis associated with this model. Although some would suggest that repetitive bleomycin injuries may more effectively model IPF-like changes, our data do not support this conclusion. Together, these data highlight that a single bleomycin instillation effectively replicates several of the specific pathogenic molecular changes associated with IPF, and may be best used as a model for patients with active disease.
PMCID: PMC3614979  PMID: 23565148
5.  Systemic Biomarkers of Neutrophilic Inflammation, Tissue Injury and Repair in COPD Patients with Differing Levels of Disease Severity 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e38629.
The identification and validation of biomarkers to support the assessment of novel therapeutics for COPD continues to be an important area of research. The aim of the current study was to identify systemic protein biomarkers correlated with measures of COPD severity, as well as specific protein signatures associated with comorbidities such as metabolic syndrome. 142 protein analytes were measured in serum of 140 patients with stable COPD, 15 smokers without COPD and 30 non-smoking controls. Seven analytes (sRAGE, EN-RAGE, NGAL, Fibrinogen, MPO, TGF-α and HB-EGF) showed significant differences between severe/very severe COPD, mild/moderate COPD, smoking and non-smoking control groups. Within the COPD subjects, univariate and multivariate analyses identified analytes significantly associated with FEV1, FEV1/FVC and DLCO. Most notably, a set of 5 analytes (HB-EGF, Fibrinogen, MCP-4, sRAGE and Sortilin) predicted 21% of the variability in DLCO values. To determine common functions/pathways, analytes were clustered in a correlation network by similarity of expression profile. While analytes related to neutrophil function (EN-RAGE, NGAL, MPO) grouped together to form a cluster associated with FEV1 related parameters, analytes related to the EGFR pathway (HB-EGF, TGF-α) formed another cluster associated with both DLCO and FEV1 related parameters. Associations of Fibrinogen with DLCO and MPO with FEV1/FVC were stronger in patients without metabolic syndrome (r  =  −0.52, p  = 0.005 and r  =  −0.61, p  = 0.023, respectively) compared to patients with coexisting metabolic syndrome (r  =  −0.25, p  = 0.47 and r  =  −0.15, p  = 0.96, respectively), and may be driving overall associations in the general cohort. In summary, our study has identified known and novel serum protein biomarkers and has demonstrated specific associations with COPD disease severity, FEV1, FEV1/FVC and DLCO. These data highlight systemic inflammatory pathways, neutrophil activation and epithelial tissue injury/repair processes as key pathways associated with COPD.
PMCID: PMC3373533  PMID: 22701684
6.  Expression Profiling of Human Immune Cell Subsets Identifies miRNA-mRNA Regulatory Relationships Correlated with Cell Type Specific Expression 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e29979.
Blood consists of different cell populations with distinct functions and correspondingly, distinct gene expression profiles. In this study, global miRNA expression profiling was performed across a panel of nine human immune cell subsets (neutrophils, eosinophils, monocytes, B cells, NK cells, CD4 T cells, CD8 T cells, mDCs and pDCs) to identify cell-type specific miRNAs. mRNA expression profiling was performed on the same samples to determine if miRNAs specific to certain cell types down-regulated expression levels of their target genes. Six cell-type specific miRNAs (miR-143; neutrophil specific, miR-125; T cells and neutrophil specific, miR-500; monocyte and pDC specific, miR-150; lymphoid cell specific, miR-652 and miR-223; both myeloid cell specific) were negatively correlated with expression of their predicted target genes. These results were further validated using an independent cohort where similar immune cell subsets were isolated and profiled for both miRNA and mRNA expression. miRNAs which negatively correlated with target gene expression in both cohorts were identified as candidates for miRNA/mRNA regulatory pairs and were used to construct a cell-type specific regulatory network. miRNA/mRNA pairs formed two distinct clusters in the network corresponding to myeloid (nine miRNAs) and lymphoid lineages (two miRNAs). Several myeloid specific miRNAs targeted common genes including ABL2, EIF4A2, EPC1 and INO80D; these common targets were enriched for genes involved in the regulation of gene expression (p<9.0E-7). Those miRNA might therefore have significant further effect on gene expression by repressing the expression of genes involved in transcriptional regulation. The miRNA and mRNA expression profiles reported in this study form a comprehensive transcriptome database of various human blood cells and serve as a valuable resource for elucidating the role of miRNA mediated regulation in the establishment of immune cell identity.
PMCID: PMC3262799  PMID: 22276136
7.  Comparison of Proteomic and Transcriptomic Profiles in the Bronchial Airway Epithelium of Current and Never Smokers 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(4):e5043.
Although prior studies have demonstrated a smoking-induced field of molecular injury throughout the lung and airway, the impact of smoking on the airway epithelial proteome and its relationship to smoking-related changes in the airway transcriptome are unclear.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Airway epithelial cells were obtained from never (n = 5) and current (n = 5) smokers by brushing the mainstem bronchus. Proteins were separated by one dimensional polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (1D-PAGE). After in-gel digestion, tryptic peptides were processed via liquid chromatography/ tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) and proteins identified. RNA from the same samples was hybridized to HG-U133A microarrays. Protein detection was compared to RNA expression in the current study and a previously published airway dataset. The functional properties of many of the 197 proteins detected in a majority of never smokers were similar to those observed in the never smoker airway transcriptome. LC-MS/MS identified 23 proteins that differed between never and current smokers. Western blotting confirmed the smoking-related changes of PLUNC, P4HB1, and uteroglobin protein levels. Many of the proteins differentially detected between never and current smokers were also altered at the level of gene expression in this cohort and the prior airway transcriptome study. There was a strong association between protein detection and expression of its corresponding transcript within the same sample, with 86% of the proteins detected by LC-MS/MS having a detectable corresponding probeset by microarray in the same sample. Forty-one proteins identified by LC-MS/MS lacked detectable expression of a corresponding transcript and were detected in ≤5% of airway samples from a previously published dataset.
1D-PAGE coupled with LC-MS/MS effectively profiled the airway epithelium proteome and identified proteins expressed at different levels as a result of cigarette smoke exposure. While there was a strong correlation between protein and transcript detection within the same sample, we also identified proteins whose corresponding transcripts were not detected by microarray. This noninvasive approach to proteomic profiling of airway epithelium may provide additional insights into the field of injury induced by tobacco exposure.
PMCID: PMC2664466  PMID: 19357784
8.  Smoking-induced gene expression changes in the bronchial airway are reflected in nasal and buccal epithelium 
BMC Genomics  2008;9:259.
Cigarette smoking is a leading cause of preventable death and a significant cause of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Prior studies have demonstrated that smoking creates a field of molecular injury throughout the airway epithelium exposed to cigarette smoke. We have previously characterized gene expression in the bronchial epithelium of never smokers and identified the gene expression changes that occur in the mainstem bronchus in response to smoking. In this study, we explored relationships in whole-genome gene expression between extrathorcic (buccal and nasal) and intrathoracic (bronchial) epithelium in healthy current and never smokers.
Using genes that have been previously defined as being expressed in the bronchial airway of never smokers (the "normal airway transcriptome"), we found that bronchial and nasal epithelium from non-smokers were most similar in gene expression when compared to other epithelial and nonepithelial tissues, with several antioxidant, detoxification, and structural genes being highly expressed in both the bronchus and nose. Principle component analysis of previously defined smoking-induced genes from the bronchus suggested that smoking had a similar effect on gene expression in nasal epithelium. Gene set enrichment analysis demonstrated that this set of genes was also highly enriched among the genes most altered by smoking in both nasal and buccal epithelial samples. The expression of several detoxification genes was commonly altered by smoking in all three respiratory epithelial tissues, suggesting a common airway-wide response to tobacco exposure.
Our findings support a relationship between gene expression in extra- and intrathoracic airway epithelial cells and extend the concept of a smoking-induced field of injury to epithelial cells that line the mouth and nose. This relationship could potentially be utilized to develop a non-invasive biomarker for tobacco exposure as well as a non-invasive screening or diagnostic tool providing information about individual susceptibility to smoking-induced lung diseases.
PMCID: PMC2435556  PMID: 18513428

Results 1-8 (8)