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1.  Conditional Deletion of Nrf2 in Airway Epithelium Exacerbates Acute Lung Injury and Impairs the Resolution of Inflammation 
Oxidant stress, resulting from an excess of reactive electrophiles produced in the lung by both resident (epithelial and endothelial) and infiltrated leukocytes, is thought to play an obligatory role in tissue injury and abnormal repair. Previously, using a conventional (whole-body) knockout model, we showed that antioxidative gene induction regulated by the transcription factor Nrf2 is critical for mitigating oxidant-induced (hyperoxic) stress, as well as for preventing and resolving tissue injury and inflammation in vivo. However, the contribution to pathogenic acute lung injury (ALI) of the cellular stress produced by resident versus infiltrated leukocytes remains largely undefined in vivo. To address this critical gap in our knowledge, we generated mice with a conditional deletion of Nrf2 specifically in Clara cells, subjected these mice to hyperoxic insult, and allowed them to recover. We report that a deficiency of Nrf2 in airway epithelia alone is sufficient to contribute to the development and progression of ALI. When exposed to hyperoxia, mice lacking Nrf2 in Clara cells showed exacerbated lung injury, accompanied by greater levels of cell death and epithelial sloughing than in their wild-type littermates. In addition, we found that an Nrf2 deficiency in Clara cells is associated with a persistent inflammatory response and epithelial sloughing in the lungs during recovery from sublethal hyperoxic insult. Our results demonstrate (for the first time, to the best of our knowledge) that Nrf2 signaling in Clara cells is critical for conferring protection from hyperoxic lung injury and for resolving inflammation during the repair process.
PMCID: PMC3262666  PMID: 21659655
oxidative stress; lung injury and repair; inflammation
2.  Neonatal Hyperoxia Contributes Additively to Cigarette Smoke–Induced Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Changes in Adult Mice 
The extent by which early postnatal lung injury contributes to the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in the adult is unclear. We hypothesized that exposure to hyperoxia during early postnatal life can augment lung changes caused by adult chronic cigarette smoke (CS) exposure. C57BL/6J mice (1 d old) were exposed to hyperoxia (O2) for 5 days. At 1 month of age, half of the O2–exposed mice and half of the control mice were placed in a CS chamber for 6 months. After exposure to CS, mice underwent quasi-static pressure–volume curve and mean chord length measurements; quantification of pro–Sp-c expression; and measurement of lung IL-8/ KC, CXCR2/IL8Rα, TNF-α, and IL-6 mRNA by real-time PCR. Adult mice exposed to O2+CS had significantly larger chord length measurements (P < 0.02) and lung volumes at 35 cm H2O (P < 0.05) compared with all other groups. They also had significantly less pro–Sp-c protein and surfactant protein C mRNA expression (P < 0.003). Mice exposed to O2+CS and CS-only mice had significantly higher lung resistance and longer mean time constants (P < 0.01), significantly more inflammatory cells in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (P < 0.03), and significantly higher levels of lung CXCR2/IL8Rα mRNA compared with mice not exposed to smoke (P < 0.02). We conclude that exposure to early postnatal hyperoxia contributed additively to CS-induced COPD changes in adult mice. These results may be relevant to a growing population of preterm children who sustained lung injury in the newborn period and may be exposed to CS in later life.
PMCID: PMC3175575  PMID: 21239606
early postnatal hyperoxia; airspace abnormalities; chronic cigarette smoke exposure; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
3.  Nuclear Erythroid 2 p45-Related Factor 2 Inhibits the Maturation of Murine Dendritic Cells by Ragweed Extract 
Oxidative stress plays an important role in immune regulation and dendritic cell (DC) maturation. Recent studies indicate that allergens, including ragweed extract (RWE), possess prooxidant activities, but how RWE interacts with DCs is not well understood. Nuclear erythroid 2 p45-related factor 2 (Nrf2) is a key transcription factor that regulates constitutive and coordinated induction of a battery of antioxidant genes. We hypothesized that RWE would activate DCs and that this response would be augmented in the absence of Nrf2. We generated bone marrow–derived DCs (BM-DCs) and isolated lung DCs from Nrf2+/+ and Nrf2−/− mice and studied the effects of RWE on DCs in vitro. Under resting conditions, Nrf2−/− BM-DCs exhibited constitutively greater levels of inflammatory cytokines and costimulatory molecules than Nrf2+/+ BM-DCs. Exposure to RWE impaired endocytic activity, significantly induced oxidative stress, and enhanced the expression of CD80, CD86, and MHCII in Nrf2−/− BM-DCs when compared with Nrf2+/+ BM-DC, in association with reduced expression of Nrf2-regulated antioxidant genes. RWE significantly induced the secretion of inflammatory cytokines IL-6 and TNF-α in BM-DCs and lung DCs from Nrf2−/− mice than Nrf2+/+ mice and significantly inhibited the secretion of IL-12 in Nrf2+/+ BM-DCs and IL-18 in Nrf2+/+ and Nrf2−/− BM-DCs. The stimulatory effects of RWE on DC activation were inhibited to varying degrees by the antioxidant N-acetyl cysteine. Our findings indicate that a defect in Nrf2-mediated signaling mechanisms alters the response of DCs to a common environmental allergen, which may contribute to the susceptibility to allergic diseases.
PMCID: PMC2933546  PMID: 19805484
Nrf2; dendritic cells; ragweed extract; antioxidant genes; oxidative stress
4.  Deletion of Keap1 in the Lung Attenuates Acute Cigarette Smoke–Induced Oxidative Stress and Inflammation 
Exposure to cigarette smoke (CS) is the primary factor associated with the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). CS increases the level of oxidants in the lungs, resulting in a depletion of antioxidants, which promotes oxidative stress and the destruction of alveolar tissue. In response to CS, pulmonary epithelial cells counteract increased levels of oxidants by activating Nrf2-dependent pathways to augment the expression of detoxification and antioxidant enzymes, thereby protecting the lung from injury. We hypothesize that increasing the pathways activated by Nrf2 will afford protection against CS-induced lung damage. To this end we have developed a novel mouse model in which the cytosolic inhibitor of Nrf2, Keap1, is genetically deleted in Clara cells, which predominate in the upper airways in mice. Deletion of Keap1 in Clara cells resulted in increased expression of Nrf2-dependent genes, such as Nqo1 and Gclm, as determined by microarray analysis and quantitative PCR. Deletion of Keap1 in airway epithelium decreased Keap1 protein levels and significantly increased the total level of glutathione in the lungs. Increased Nrf2 activation protected Clara cells against oxidative stress ex vivo and attenuated oxidative stress and CS-induced inflammation in vivo. Expression of KEAP1 was also decreased in human epithelial cells through siRNA transfection, which increased the expression of Nrf2-dependent genes and attenuated oxidative stress. In conclusion, activating Nrf2 pathways in tissue-specific Keap1 knockout mice represents an important genetic approach against oxidant-induced lung damage.
PMCID: PMC2874439  PMID: 19520915
cigarette smoke; Nrf2; Keap1; inflammation; oxidative stress
5.  Impaired Lung Homeostasis in Neonatal Mice Exposed to Cigarette Smoke 
In infants, smoke exposure is associated with more respiratory illnesses and decreased lung function. We hypothesized that perinatal lung is particularly susceptible to the damaging effects of cigarette smoke (CS) and that exposure to CS during this period may alter expression of immune response genes and adversely affect lung growth. To test this, we exposed neonatal mice to 14 days of CS. Immediately after exposure to CS, pulmonary gene expression profiling was performed on 2-week-old CS-exposed lung and age-matched control lung. Nitrotyrosine, TUNEL, MAC3, and phospho-SMAD-2 (p-SMAD2) staining was also performed. At 8 weeks of age, lung volume measurements were determined and mean linear intercept measurements were calculated. Pulmonary gene expression profiling revealed that CS exposure significantly inhibited type 1 and type 2 interferon pathway genes in neonatal lung, compared with age-matched control lung. Neonatal CS-exposed lung also had a significant increase in n-tyrosine, TUNEL, and p-SMAD2 staining when compared with adult CS-exposed lung and age-matched control lung. Lung volumes at 8 weeks of age were modestly but significantly decreased in mice exposed to CS in the neonatal period compared with age-matched controls, consistent with impaired lung growth. The results of this study indicate that exposure to CS during the neonatal period inhibits expression of genes involved in innate immunity and mildly impairs postnatal lung growth. These findings may in part explain the increased incidence of respiratory symptoms in infants and children exposed to CS.
PMCID: PMC2274944  PMID: 17975176
neonatal lung; cigarette smoke; interferon responsive genes; oxidative stress; TGF-β signaling
6.  Deficiency in Nrf2-GSH Signaling Impairs Type II Cell Growth and Enhances Sensitivity to Oxidants 
Redox imbalance has been implicated in the pathogenesis of many acute and chronic lung diseases. The b-Zip transcription factor Nrf2 acts via an antioxidant/electrophilic response element to regulate antioxidants and maintain cellular redox homeostasis. Our previous studies have shown that Nrf2-deficient mice (Nrf2−/−) show reduced pulmonary expression of several antioxidant enzymes, which renders them highly susceptible to hyperoxia-induced lung injury. To better understand the physiologic significance of Nrf2-induced redox signaling, we have used primary cells isolated from the lungs of Nrf2+/+ and Nrf2−/− mice. Our studies were focused on type II cells because these cells are constantly exposed to the oxidant environment and play key roles in host defense, injury, and repair processes. Using this system, we now report that an Nrf2 deficiency leads to defects in type II cell proliferation and greatly enhances the cells' sensitivity to oxidant-induced cell death. These defects were closely associated with high levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and redox imbalance in Nrf2−/− cells. Glutathione (GSH) supplementation rescued these phenotypic defects associated with the Nrf2 deficiency. Intriguingly, although the antioxidant N-acetyl-cysteine drastically squelched ROS levels, it was unable to counteract growth arrest in Nrf2−/− cells. Moreover, despite their elevated levels of ROS, Nrf2−/− type II cells were viable and, like their wild-type counterparts, exhibited normal differentiation characteristics. Our data suggest that dysfunctional Nrf2-regulated GSH-induced signaling is associated with deregulation of type II cell proliferation, which contributes to abnormal injury and repair and leads to respiratory impairment.
PMCID: PMC1899352  PMID: 17413030
oxidative stress; lung; antioxidants; cell proliferation
7.  Glutathione Peroxidase 2, the Major Cigarette Smoke–Inducible Isoform of GPX in Lungs, Is Regulated by Nrf2 
Disruption of NF-E2–related factor (Nrf2), a redox-sensitive basic leucine zipper transcription factor, causes early-onset and more severe emphysema due to chronic cigarette smoke. Nrf2 determines the susceptibility of lungs to cigarette smoke–induced emphysema in mice through the transcriptional induction of numerous antioxidant genes. The lungs of Nrf2−/− mice have higher oxidative stress as evident from the increased levels of lipid peroxidation (4-hydroxy-2-nonenal) and oxidative DNA damage (7,8-dihydro-8-Oxo-2′deoxyguanosine) in response to cigarette smoke. Glutathione peroxidases (GPX) are the primary antioxidant enzymes that scavenge hydrogen peroxide and organic hydroperoxides. Among the five GPX isoforms, expression of GPX2 was significantly induced at both mRNA and protein levels in the lungs of Nrf2+/+ mice, in response to cigarette smoke. Activation of Nrf2 by specific knock down of the cytosolic inhibitor of Nrf2, Keap1, by small inhibitory RNA (siRNA) upregulated the expression of GPx2, whereas Nrf2 siRNA down-regulated the expression of GPX2 in lung epithelial cells. An ARE sequence located in the 5′ promoter–flanking region of exon 1 that is highly conserved between mouse, rat, and human was identified. Mutation of this ARE core sequence completely abolished the activity of promoter–reporter gene construct. The binding of Nrf2 to the GPX2 antioxidant response element was confirmed by chromatin immunoprecipation, electrophoretic mobility shift assays, and site-directed mutagenesis. This study shows that GPX2 is the major oxidative stress–inducible cellular GPX isoform in the lungs, and that its basal as well as inducible expression is dependent on Nrf2.
PMCID: PMC2643293  PMID: 16794261
antioxidant response element; cigarette smoke; emphysema; GPX2; Nrf2

Results 1-7 (7)