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1.  Role of Kv7 channels in responses of the pulmonary circulation to hypoxia 
Hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction (HPV) is a beneficial mechanism that diverts blood from hypoxic alveoli to better ventilated areas of the lung, but breathing hypoxic air causes the pulmonary circulation to become hypertensive. Responses to airway hypoxia are associated with depolarization of smooth muscle cells in the pulmonary arteries and reduced activity of K+ channels. As Kv7 channels have been proposed to play a key role in regulating the smooth muscle membrane potential, we investigated their involvement in the development of HPV and hypoxia-induced pulmonary hypertension. Vascular effects of the selective Kv7 blocker, linopirdine, and Kv7 activator, flupirtine, were investigated in isolated, saline-perfused lungs from rats maintained for 3–5 days in an isobaric hypoxic chamber (FiO2 = 0.1) or room air. Linopirdine increased vascular resistance in lungs from normoxic, but not hypoxic rats. This effect was associated with reduced mRNA expression of the Kv7.4 channel α-subunit in hypoxic arteries, whereas Kv7.1 and Kv7.5 were unaffected. Flupirtine had no effect in normoxic lungs but reduced vascular resistance in hypoxic lungs. Moreover, oral dosing with flupirtine (30 mg/kg/day) prevented short-term in vivo hypoxia from increasing pulmonary vascular resistance and sensitizing the arteries to acute hypoxia. These findings suggest a protective role for Kv7.4 channels in the pulmonary circulation, limiting its reactivity to pressor agents and preventing hypoxia-induced pulmonary hypertension. They also provide further support for the therapeutic potential of Kv7 activators in pulmonary vascular disease.
PMCID: PMC4281702  PMID: 25361569
KCNQ; Kv7 channels; flupirtine; isolated lungs; hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction; P/Q relationship
2.  Impact of a functional polymorphism in the PAR-1 gene promoter in COPD and COPD exacerbations 
Proteinase-activated receptor-1 (PAR-1) plays a key role in mediating the interplay between coagulation and inflammation in response to injury. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of the promoter single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs2227744G>A in modulating PAR-1/F2R gene expression in the context of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and COPD exacerbations. The function of the rs2227744G>A SNP was investigated by using reporter gene assays. The frequency of the polymorphism in the UK population was assessed by genotyping 8,579 healthy individuals from the Whitehall II and English Longitudinal Study of Ageing cohorts. The rs2227744G>A SNP was genotyped in a carefully phenotyped cohort of 203 COPD cases and matched controls. The results were further replicated in two different COPD cohorts. The minor allele of the rs2227744G>A polymorphism was found to increase F2R expression by 2.6-fold (P < 0.001). The rs2227744G>A SNP was not significantly associated with COPD, or with lung function, in all cohorts. The minor allele of the SNP was found to be associated with protection from frequent exacerbations (P = 0.04) in the cohort of COPD patients for which exacerbation frequency was available. Considering exacerbations as a continuous variable, the presence of the minor allele was associated with a significantly lower COPD exacerbation rate (3.03 vs. 1.98 exacerbations/year, Mann-Whitney U-test P = 0.04). Taken together, these data do not support a role for the rs2227744G>A F2R polymorphism in the development of COPD but suggest a protective role for this polymorphism from frequent exacerbations. Studies in separate cohorts to replicate these findings are warranted.
PMCID: PMC4137163  PMID: 24973402
PAR-1; F2R; SNP; COPD; COPD exacerbation
3.  Asthmatic airway smooth muscle CXCL10 production: mitogen-activated protein kinase JNK involvement 
CXCL10 (IP10) is involved in mast cell migration to airway smooth muscle (ASM) bundles in asthma. We aimed to investigate the role of cytokine-induced MAPK activation in CXCL10 production by ASM cells from people with and without asthma. Confluent growth-arrested ASM cells were treated with inhibitors of the MAPKs ERK, p38, and JNK and transcription factor NF-κB, or vehicle, and stimulated with IL-1β, TNF-α, or IFN-γ, alone or combined (cytomix). CXCL10 mRNA and protein, JNK, NF-κB p65 phosphorylation, and Iκ-Bα protein degradation were assessed using real-time PCR, ELISA, and immunoblotting, respectively. Cytomix, IL-1β, and TNF-α induced CXCL10 mRNA expression more rapidly in asthmatic than nonasthmatic ASM cells. IL-1β and/or TNF-α combined with IFN-γ synergistically increased asthmatic ASM cell CXCL10 release. Inhibitor effects were similar in asthmatic and nonasthmatic cells, but cytomix-induced release was least affected, with only JNK and NF-κB inhibitors halving it. Notably, JNK phosphorylation was markedly less in asthmatic compared with nonasthmatic cells. However, in both, the JNK inhibitor SP600125 reduced JNK phosphorylation and CXCL10 mRNA levels but did not affect CXCL10 mRNA stability or Iκ-Bα degradation. Together, the JNK and NF-κB inhibitors completely inhibited their CXCL10 release. We concluded that, in asthmatic compared with nonasthmatic ASM cells, JNK activation was reduced and CXCL10 gene expression was more rapid following cytomix stimulation. However, in both, JNK activation did not regulate early events leading to NF-κB activation. Thus JNK and NF-κB provide independent therapeutic targets for limiting CXCL10 production and mast cell migration to the ASM in asthma.
PMCID: PMC3362261  PMID: 22387292
IFN-inducible protein 10; mRNA levels and stability; NK-κB; p38; ERK
4.  Ciclesonide inhibits TNFα- and IL-1β-induced monocyte chemotactic protein-1 (MCP-1/CCL2) secretion from human airway smooth muscle cells 
Monocyte chemotactic protein-1 (MCP-1) is a member of the CC family of cytokines. It has monocyte and lymphocyte chemotactic activity and stimulates histamine release from basophils. MCP-1 is implicated in the pathogenesis of inflammatory diseases, including asthma. The airway smooth muscle (ASM) layer is thickened in asthma, and the growth factors and cytokines secreted by ASM cells play a role in the inflammatory response of the bronchial wall. Glucocorticoids and β2-agonists are first-line drug treatments for asthma. Little is known about the effect of asthma treatments on MCP-1 production from human ASM cells. Here, we determined the effect of ciclesonide (a glucocorticoid) and formoterol (a β2-agonist) on MCP-1 production from human ASM cells. TNFα and IL-1β induced MCP-1 secretion from human ASM cells. Formoterol had no effect on MCP-1 expression, while ciclesonide significantly inhibited IL-1β- and TNFα-induced MCP-1. Furthermore, ciclesonide inhibited IL-1β- and TNFα-induced MCP-1 mRNA and IL-1β- and TNFα-induced MCP-1 promoter and enhancer luciferase reporters. Western blots showed that ciclesonide had no effect on IκB degradation. Finally, ciclesonide inhibited an NF-κB luciferase reporter. Our data show that ciclesonide inhibits IL-1β- and TNFα-induced MCP-1 production from human ASM cells via a transcriptional mechanism involving inhibition of NF-κB binding.
PMCID: PMC3331580  PMID: 22246000
glucocorticoid; nuclear factor-κB; inflammation
5.  TGF-β regulates Nox4, MnSOD and catalase expression, and IL-6 release in airway smooth muscle cells 
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are generated as a result of normal cellular metabolism, mainly through the mitochondria and peroxisomes, but their release is enhanced by the activation of oxidant enzymes such as NADPH oxidases or downregulation of endogenous antioxidant enzymes such as manganese-superoxide dismutase (MnSOD) and catalase. Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β), found to be overexpressed in airway smooth muscle (ASM) from asthmatic and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients, may be a pivotal regulator of abnormal ASM cell (ASMC) function in these diseases. An important effect of TGF-β on ASMC inflammatory responses is the induction of IL-6 release. TGF-β also triggers intracellular ROS release in ASMCs by upregulation of NADPH oxidase 4 (Nox4). However, the effect of TGF-β on the expression of key antioxidant enzymes and subsequently on oxidant/antioxidant balance is unknown. Moreover, the role of redox-dependent pathways in the mediation of the proinflammatory effects of TGF-β in ASMCs is unclear. In this study, we show that TGF-β induced the expression of Nox4 while at the same time inhibiting the expression of MnSOD and catalase. This change in oxidant/antioxidant enzymes was accompanied by elevated ROS levels and IL-6 release. Further studies revealed a role for Smad3 and phosphatidyl-inositol kinase-mediated pathways in the induction of oxidant/antioxidant imbalance and IL-6 release. The changes in oxidant/antioxidant enzymes and IL-6 release were reversed by the antioxidants N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) and ebselen through inhibition of Smad3 phosphorylation, indicating redox-dependent activation of Smad3 by TGF-β. Moreover, these findings suggest a potential role for NAC in preventing TGF-β-mediated pro-oxidant and proinflammatory responses in ASMCs. Knockdown of Nox4 using small interfering RNA partially prevented the inhibition of MnSOD but had no effect on catalase and IL-6 expression. These findings provide novel insights into redox regulation of ASM function by TGF-β.
PMCID: PMC3043811  PMID: 21131394
Smad; phosphatidyl-inositol kinases; reactive oxygen species; N-acetyl cysteine; manganese-superoxide dismutase; transforming growth factor-β; NADPH oxidase 4 (Nox4)
6.  Control of HIF-1α and vascular signaling in fetal lung involves cross talk between mTORC1 and the FGF-10/FGFR2b/Spry2 airway branching periodicity clock 
Lung development requires coordinated signaling between airway and vascular growth, but the link between these processes remains unclear. Mammalian target of rapamycin complex-1 (mTORC1) can amplify hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) vasculogenic activity through an NH2-terminal mTOR binding (TOS) motif. We hypothesized that this mechanism coordinates vasculogenesis with the fibroblast growth factor (FGF)-10/FGF-receptor2b/Spry2 regulator of airway branching. First, we tested if the HIF-1α TOS motif participated in epithelial-mesenchymal vascular signaling. mTORC1 activation by insulin significantly amplified HIF-1α activity at fetal Po2 (23 mmHg) in human bronchial epithelium (16HBE14o-) and induced vascular traits (Flk1, sprouting) in cocultured human embryonic lung mesenchyme (HEL-12469). This enhanced activation of HIF-1α by mTORC1 was abolished on expression of a HIF-1α (F99A) TOS-mutant and also suppressed vascular differentiation of HEL-12469 cocultures. Next, we determined if vasculogenesis in fetal lung involved regulation of mTORC1 by the FGF-10/FGFR2b/Spry2 pathway. Fetal airway epithelium displayed distinct mTORC1 activity in situ, and its hyperactivation by TSC1−/− knockout induced widespread VEGF expression and disaggregation of Tie2-positive vascular bundles. FGF-10-coated beads grafted into fetal lung explants from Tie2-LacZ transgenic mice induced localized vascular differentiation in the peripheral mesenchyme. In rat fetal distal lung epithelial (FDLE) cells cultured at fetal Po2, FGF-10 induced mTORC1 and amplified HIF-1α activity and VEGF secretion without induction of ERK1/2. This was accompanied by the formation of a complex between Spry2, the cCBL ubiquitin ligase, and the mTOR repressor, TSC2, which abolished GTPase activity directed against Rheb, the G protein inducer of mTORC1. Thus, mTORC1 links HIF-1α-driven vasculogenesis with the FGF-10/FGFR2b/Spry2 airway branching periodicity regulator.
PMCID: PMC2957420  PMID: 20622121
lung development; epithelium; mesenchyme; hypoxia; rheb; tuberous sclerosis complex
7.  Regulation of monocyte subset proinflammatory responses within the lung microvasculature by the p38 MAPK/MK2 pathway 
Margination and activation of monocytes within the pulmonary microcirculation contribute substantially to the development of acute lung injury in mice. The enhanced LPS-induced TNF expression exhibited by Gr-1high compared with Gr-1low monocytes within the lung microvasculature suggests differential roles for these subsets. We investigated the mechanisms responsible for such heterogeneity of lung-marginated monocyte proinflammatory response using a combined in vitro and in vivo approach. The monocyte subset inflammatory response was studied in vitro in mouse peripheral blood mononuclear cell-lung endothelial cell coculture and in vivo in a two-hit model of intravenous LPS-induced monocyte margination and lung inflammation in mice, by flow cytometry-based quantification of proinflammatory genes and intracellular phospho-kinases. With LPS stimulation in vitro, TNF expression was consistently higher in Gr-1high than Gr-1low monocytes, markedly enhanced by coculture with endothelial cells, and abrogated by p38 MAPK inhibitors. Expression of IL-6, inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) was only detectable under coculture conditions, was substantially higher in Gr-1high monocytes, and was attenuated by p38 inhibition. Consistent with these differential responses, phosphorylation of p38 and its substrate MAPK-activated protein kinase 2 (MK2) was significantly higher in the Gr-1high subset. In vivo, p38 inhibitor treatment significantly attenuated LPS-induced TNF expression in “lung-marginated” Gr-1high monocytes. LPS-induced p38/MK2 phosphorylation was higher in lung-marginated Gr-1high than Gr-1low monocytes and neutrophils, mirroring TNF expression. These results indicate that the p38/MK2 pathway is a critical determinant of elevated Gr-1high subset responsiveness within the lung microvasculature, producing a coordinated proinflammatory response that places Gr-1high monocytes as key orchestrators of pulmonary microvascular inflammation and injury.
PMCID: PMC3213987  PMID: 21873449
acute lung injury; endotoxemia; tumor necrosis factor; margination
8.  Oxidized α1-antitrypsin stimulates the release of monocyte chemotactic protein-1 from lung epithelial cells: potential role in emphysema 
α1-Antitrypsin (AT) is a major elastase inhibitor within the lung. Oxidation of critical methionine residues in AT generates oxidized AT (Ox-AT), which has a greatly diminished ability to inhibit neutrophil elastase. This process may contribute to the pathogenesis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by creating a functional deficiency of AT permitting lung destruction. We show here that Ox-AT promotes release of human monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1) and IL-8 from human lung type epithelial cells (A549) and normal human bronchial epithelial (NHBE) cells. Native, cleaved, polymeric AT and secretory leukoproteinase inhibitor (SLPI) and oxidized conformations of cleaved, polymeric AT and SLPI did not have any significant effect on MCP-1 and IL-8 secretion. These findings were supported by the fact that instillation of Ox-AT into murine lungs resulted in an increase in JE (mouse MCP-1) and increased macrophage numbers in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid. The effect of Ox-AT was dependent on NF-κB and activator protein-1 (AP-1)/JNK. These findings have important implications. They demonstrate that the oxidation of methionines in AT by oxidants released by cigarette smoke or inflammatory cells not only reduces the antielastase lung protection, but also converts AT into a proinflammatory stimulus. Ox-AT generated in the airway interacts directly with epithelial cells to release chemokines IL-8 and MCP-1, which in turn attracts macrophages and neutrophils into the airways. The release of oxidants by these inflammatory cells could oxidize AT, perpetuating the cycle and potentially contributing to the pathogenesis of COPD. Furthermore, these data demonstrate that molecules such as oxidants, antiproteinases, and chemokines, rather than act independently, are likely to interact to cause emphysema.
PMCID: PMC2742802  PMID: 19525388
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; interleukin-8; oxidants
9.  VEGF in the lung: a role for novel isoforms 
Vascular endothelial cell growth factor (VEGF) is a potent mitogen and permogen that increases in the plasma and decreases in the alveolar space in respiratory diseases such as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). This observation has led to controversy over the role of this potent molecule in lung physiology and disease. We hypothesized that some of the VEGF previously detected in normal lung may be of the anti-angiogenic family (VEGFxxxb) with significant potential effects on VEGF bioactivity. VEGFxxxb protein expression was assessed by indirect immunohistochemistry in normal and ARDS tissue. Expression of VEGFxxxb was also detected by immunoblotting in normal lung tissue, primary human alveolar type II (ATII) cells, and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid in normal subjects and by ELISA in normal, “at risk,” and ARDS subjects. The effect of VEGF165 and VEGF165b on both human primary endothelial cells and alveolar epithelial cell proliferation was assessed by [3H]thymidine uptake. We found that VEGF165b was widely expressed in normal healthy lung tissue but is reduced in ARDS lung. VEGF121b and VEGF165b were present in whole lung, BAL, and ATII lysate. The proliferative effect of VEGF165 on both human primary endothelial cells and human alveolar epithelial cells was significantly inhibited by VEGF165b (P < 0.01). These data demonstrate that the novel VEGFxxxb family members are expressed in normal lung and are reduced in ARDS. A specific functional effect on primary human endothelial and alveolar epithelial cells has also been shown. These data suggest that the VEGFxxxb family may have a role in repair after lung injury.
PMCID: PMC2886605  PMID: 20228180
ARDS; vascular endothelial growth factor
10.  Tracheobronchial air-liquid interface cell culture: a model for innate mucosal defense of the upper airways? 
Human tracheobronchial epithelial cells grown in air-liquid interface culture have emerged as a powerful tool for the study of airway biology. In this study, we have investigated whether this culture system produces “mucus” with a protein composition similar to that of in vivo, induced airway secretions. Previous compositional studies of mucous secretions have greatly underrepresented the contribution of mucins, which are major structural components of normal mucus. To overcome this limitation, we have used a mass spectrometry-based approach centered on prior separation of the mucins from the majority of the other proteins. Using this approach, we have compared the protein composition of apical secretions (AS) from well-differentiated primary human tracheobronchial cells grown at air-liquid interface and human tracheobronchial normal induced sputum (IS). A total of 186 proteins were identified, 134 from AS and 136 from IS; 84 proteins were common to both secretions, with host defense proteins being predominant. The epithelial mucins MUC1, MUC4, and MUC16 and the gel-forming mucins MUC5B and MUC5AC were identified in both secretions. Refractometry showed that the gel-forming mucins were the major contributors by mass to both secretions. When the composition of the IS was corrected for proteins that were most likely derived from saliva, serum, and migratory cells, there was considerable similarity between the two secretions, in particular, in the category of host defense proteins, which includes the mucins. This shows that the primary cell culture system is an important model for study of aspects of innate defense of the upper airways related specifically to mucus consisting solely of airway cell products.
PMCID: PMC2636953  PMID: 18931053
mucus; mucin; innate immunity; proteomics; human tracheobronchial epithelial cell culture
11.  AICAR decreases the activity of two distinct amiloride-sensitive Na+-permeable channels in H441 human lung epithelial cell monolayers 
Transepithelial transport of Na+ across the lung epithelium via amiloride-sensitive Na+ channels (ENaC) regulates fluid volume in the lung lumen. Activators of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), the adenosine monophosphate mimetic AICAR, and the biguanide metformin decreased amiloride-sensitive apical Na+ conductance (GNa+) in human H441 airway epithelial cell monolayers. Cell-attached patch-clamp recordings identified two distinct constitutively active cation channels in the apical membrane that were likely to contribute to GNa+: a 5-pS highly Na+ selective ENaC-like channel (HSC) and an 18-pS nonselective cation channel (NSC). Substituting NaCl with NMDG-Cl in the patch pipette solution shifted the reversal potentials of HSC and NSC, respectively, from +23 mV to −38 mV and 0 mV to −35 mV. Amiloride at 1 μM inhibited HSC activity and 56% of short-circuit current (Isc), whereas 10 μM amiloride partially reduced NSC activity and inhibited a further 30% of Isc. Neither conductance was associated with CNG channels as there was no effect of 10 μM pimoside on Isc, HSC, or NSC activity, and 8-bromo-cGMP (0.3–0.1 mM) did not induce or increase HSC or NSC activity. Pretreatment of H441 monolayers with 2 mM AICAR inhibited HSC/NSC activity by 90%, and this effect was reversed by the AMPK inhibitor Compound C. All three ENaC proteins were identified in the apical membrane of H441 monolayers, but no change in their abundance was detected after treatment with AICAR. In conclusion, activation of AMPK with AICAR in H441 cell monolayers is associated with inhibition of two distinct amiloride-sensitive Na+-permeable channels by a mechanism that likely reduces channel open probability.
PMCID: PMC2584878  PMID: 18723760
5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide-1-β-d-ribofuranoside; AMP-activated protein kinase; ENaC
12.  Cellular localization of mitochondria contributes to Kv channel-mediated regulation of cellular excitability in pulmonary but not mesenteric circulation 
Mitochondria are proposed to be a major oxygen sensor in hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction (HPV), a unique response of the pulmonary circulation to low oxygen tension. Mitochondrial factors including reactive oxygen species, cytochrome c, ATP, and magnesium are potent modulators of voltage-gated K+ (Kv) channels in the plasmalemmal membrane of pulmonary arterial (PA) smooth muscle cells (PASMCs). Mitochondria have also been found close to the plasmalemmal membrane in rabbit main PA smooth muscle sections. Therefore, we hypothesized that differences in mitochondria localization in rat PASMCs and systemic mesenteric arterial smooth muscle cells (MASMCs) may contribute to the divergent oxygen sensitivity in the two different circulations. Cellular localization of mitochondria was compared with immunofluorescent labeling, and differences in functional coupling between mitochondria and Kv channels was evaluated with the patch-clamp technique and specific mitochondrial inhibitors antimycin A (acting at complex III of the mitochondrial electron transport chain) and oligomycin A (which inhibits the ATP synthase). It was found that mitochondria were located significantly closer to the plasmalemmal membrane in PASMCs compared with MASMCs. Consistent with these findings, the effects of the mitochondrial inhibitors on Kv current (IKv) were significantly more potent in PASMCs than in MASMCs. The cytoskeletal disruptor cytochalasin B (10 μM) also altered mitochondrial distribution in PASMCs and significantly attenuated the effect of antimycin A on the voltage-dependent parameters of IKv. These findings suggest a greater structural and functional coupling between mitochondria and Kv channels specifically in PASMCs, which could contribute to the regulation of PA excitability in HPV.
PMCID: PMC2660209  PMID: 19098127
pulmonary artery; vascular smooth muscle cells; mesenteric artery; K+ channel activation; K+ channel inactivation; confocal imaging; patch-clamp technique
13.  Mitochondria-dependent regulation of Kv currents in rat pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells 
Voltage-gated K+ (Kv) channels are important in the regulation of pulmonary vascular function having both physiological and pathophysiological implications. The pulmonary vasculature is essential for reoxygenation of the blood, supplying oxygen for cellular respiration. Mitochondria have been proposed as the major oxygen-sensing organelles in the pulmonary vasculature. Using electrophysiological techniques and immunofluorescence, an interaction of the mitochondria with Kv channels was investigated. Inhibitors, blocking the mitochondrial electron transport chain at different complexes, were shown to have a dual effect on Kv currents in freshly isolated rat pulmonary arterial smooth muscle cells (PASMCs). These dual effects comprised an enhancement of Kv current in a negative potential range (manifested as a 5- to 14-mV shift in the Kv activation to more negative membrane voltages) with a decrease in current amplitude at positive potentials. Such effects were most prominent as a result of inhibition of Complex III by antimycin A. Investigation of the mechanism of antimycin A-mediated effects on Kv channel currents (IKv) revealed the presence of a mitochondria-mediated Mg2+ and ATP-dependent regulation of Kv channels in PASMCs, which exists in addition to that currently proposed to be caused by changes in intracellular reactive oxygen species.
PMCID: PMC2494784  PMID: 18469114
rat; Kv channel currents; antimycin A; magnesium ions; ATP; Kv channel activation

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