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1.  Dual Oxidase–1 Is Required for Airway Epithelial Cell Migration and Bronchiolar Reepithelialization after Injury 
The respiratory epithelium plays a critical role in innate defenses against airborne pathogens and pollutants, and alterations in epithelial homeostasis and repair mechanisms are thought to contribute to chronic lung diseases associated with airway remodeling. Previous studies implicated the nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate–reduced oxidase dual oxidase–1 (DUOX1) in redox signaling pathways involved in in vitro epithelial wound responses to infection and injury. However, the importance of epithelial DUOX1 in in vivo epithelial repair pathways has not been established. Using small interfering (si)RNA silencing of DUOX1 expression, we show the critical importance of DUOX1 in wound responses in murine tracheal epithelial (MTE) cells in vitro, as well as its contribution to epithelial regeneration in vivo in a murine model of epithelial injury induced by naphthalene, a selective toxicant of nonciliated respiratory epithelial cells (club cells [Clara]). Whereas naphthalene-induced club-cell injury is normally followed by epithelial regeneration after 7 and 14 days, such airway reepithelialization was significantly delayed after the silencing of airway DUOX1 by oropharyngeal administration of DUOX1-targeted siRNA. Wound closure in MTE cells was related to DUOX1-dependent activation of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and the transcription factor signal transducer and activator of transcription–3 (STAT3), known mediators of epithelial cell migration and wound responses. Moreover, in vivo DUOX1 silencing significantly suppressed naphthalene-induced activation of STAT3 and EGFR during early stages of epithelial repair. In conclusion, these experiments demonstrate for the first time an important function for epithelial DUOX1 in lung epithelial regeneration in vivo, by promoting EGFR–STAT3 signaling and cell migration as critical events in initial repair.
PMCID: PMC3604089  PMID: 23239498
airway injury; redox signaling; EGFR; STAT3; naphthalene
2.  Cooperation between Classical and Alternative NF-κB Pathways Regulates Proinflammatory Responses in Epithelial Cells 
The transcription factor NF-κB has been causally linked to inflammatory lung diseases. Recent studies have unraveled the complexity of NF-κB activation by identifying two parallel activation pathways: the classical NF-κB pathway, which is controlled by IκB kinase complex–β (IKKβ) and RelA/p50, and the alternative pathway, which is controlled by IKKα and RelB/p52. The alternative pathway regulates adaptive immune responses and lymphoid development, yet its role in the regulation of innate immune responses remains largely unknown. In this study, we determined the relevance of the alternative NF-κB pathway in proinflammatory responses in lung epithelial cells. The exposure of C10 murine alveolar lung epithelial cells to diverse stimuli, or primary murine tracheal epithelial cells to LPS, resulted in the activation of both NF-κB pathways, based on the nuclear translocation of RelA, p50, RelB, and p52. Increases in the nuclear content of RelA occurred rapidly, but transiently, whereas increases in nuclear RelB content were protracted. The small interfering (si) RNA–mediated knockdown of IKKα, RelA, or RelB resulted in decreases of multiple LPS-induced proinflammatory cytokines. Surprisingly, the siRNA ablation of IKKα or RelB led to marked increases in the production of IL-6 in response to LPS. The simultaneous expression of constitutively active (CA)-IKKα and CA-IKKβ caused synergistic increases in proinflammatory mediators. Lastly, the disruption of the IKK signalsome inhibited the activation of both NF-κB pathways. These results demonstrate that the coordinated activation of both NF-κB pathways regulates the magnitude and nature of proinflammatory responses in lung epithelial cells.
PMCID: PMC3488618  PMID: 22652196
lung; IκB kinase–β; IκB kinase–α; RelA; RelB
3.  Induction of a Mesenchymal Expression Program in Lung Epithelial Cells by Wingless Protein (Wnt)/β-Catenin Requires the Presence of c-Jun N-Terminal Kinase–1 (JNK1) 
Recent studies suggest the importance of the transition of airway epithelial cells (EMT) in pulmonary fibrosis, and also indicate a role for Wingless protein (Wnt)/β-catenin signaling in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. We investigated the possible role of the Wnt signaling pathway in inducing EMT in lung epithelial cells, and sought to unravel the role of c-Jun–N-terminal-kinase–1 (JNK1). The exposure of C10 lung epithelial cells or primary mouse tracheal epithelial cells (MTECs) to Wnt3a resulted in increases in JNK phosphorylation and nuclear β-catenin content. Because the role of β-catenin as a transcriptional coactivator is well established, we investigated T-cell factor/lymphocyte-enhancement factor (TCF/LEF) transcriptional activity in C10 lung epithelial cells after the activation of Wnt. TCF/LEF transcriptional activity was enhanced after the activation of Wnt, and this increase in TCF/LEF transcriptional activity was diminished after the small interfering (si)RNA-mediated ablation of JNK. The activation of the Wnt pathway by Wnt3a, or the expression of either wild-type or constitutively active β-catenin (S37A), led to the activation of an EMT transcriptome, manifested by the increased mRNA expression of CArG box-binding factor–A, fibroblast-specific protein (FSP)–1, α–smooth muscle actin (α-SMA), and vimentin, increases in the content of α-SMA and FSP1, and the concomitant loss of zona occludens–1. The siRNA-mediated ablation of β-catenin substantially decreased Wnt3a-induced EMT. The siRNA ablation of JNK1 largely abolished Wnt3a, β-catenin, and β-catenin S37a-induced EMT. In MTECs lacking Jnk1, Wnt3a-induced increases in nuclear β-catenin, EMT transcriptome, and the content of α-SMA or FSP1 were substantially diminished. These data show that the activation of the Wnt signaling pathway is capable of inducing an EMT program in lung epithelial cells through β-catenin, and that this process is controlled by JNK1.
PMCID: PMC3488690  PMID: 22461429
lung; epithelium; Wnt3a; fibrosis; epithelial to mesenchymal transition
4.  Influenza Induces Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress, Caspase-12–Dependent Apoptosis, and c-Jun N-Terminal Kinase–Mediated Transforming Growth Factor–β Release in Lung Epithelial Cells 
Influenza A virus (IAV) infection is known to induce endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, Fas-dependent apoptosis, and TGF-β production in a variety of cells. However, the relationship between these events in murine primary tracheal epithelial cells (MTECS), which are considered one of the primary sites of IAV infection and replication, is unclear. We show that IAV infection induced ER stress marker activating transcription factor–6 and endoplasmic reticulum protein 57-kD (ERp57), but not C/EBP homologous protein (CHOP). In contrast, the ER stress inducer thapsigargin (THP) increased CHOP. IAV infection activated caspases and apoptosis, independently of Fas and caspase-8, in MTECs. Instead, apoptosis was mediated by caspase-12. A decrease in ERp57 attenuated the IAV burden and decreased caspase-12 activation and apoptosis in epithelial cells. TGF-β production was enhanced in IAV–infected MTECs, compared with THP or staurosporine. IAV infection caused the activation of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK). Furthermore, IAV-induced TGF-β production required the presence of JNK1, a finding that suggests a role for JNK1 in IAV-induced epithelial injury and subsequent TGF-β production. These novel findings suggest a potential mechanistic role for a distinct ER stress response induced by IAV, and a profibrogenic/repair response in contrast to other pharmacological inducers of ER stress. These responses may also have a potential role in acute lung injury, fibroproliferative acute respiratory distress syndrome, and the recently identified H1N1 influenza–induced exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (Wedzicha JA. Proc Am Thorac Soc 2004;1:115–120) and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (Umeda Y, et al. Int Med 2010;49:2333–2336).
PMCID: PMC3359902  PMID: 21799120
ER stress; influenza A virus; ATF6; ERp57; TGF-β
5.  Cigarette Smoke Targets Glutaredoxin 1, Increasing S-Glutathionylation and Epithelial Cell Death 
It is established that cigarette smoke (CS) causes irreversible oxidations in lung epithelial cells, and can lead to their death. However, its impact on reversible and physiologically relevant redox-dependent protein modifications remains to be investigated. Glutathione is an important antioxidant against inhaled reactive oxygen species as a direct scavenger, but it can also covalently bind protein thiols upon mild oxidative stress to protect them against irreversible oxidation. This posttranslational modification, known as S-glutathionylation, can be reversed under physiological conditions by the enzyme, glutaredoxin 1 (Grx1). The aim of this study was to investigate if CS modifies Grx1, and if this impacts on protein S-glutathionylation and epithelial cell death. Upon exposure of alveolar epithelial cells to CS extract (CSE), a decrease in Grx1 mRNA and protein expression was observed, in conjunction with decreased activity and increased protein S-glutathionylation. Using mass spectrometry, irreversible oxidation of recombinant Grx1 by CSE and acrolein was demonstrated, which was associated with attenuated enzyme activity. Furthermore, carbonylation of Grx1 in epithelial cells after exposure to CSE was shown. Overexpression of Grx1 attenuated CSE-induced increases in protein S-glutathionylation and increased survival. Conversely, primary tracheal epithelial cells of mice lacking Grx1 were more sensitive to CS-induced cell death, with corresponding increases in protein S-glutathionylation. These results show that CS can modulate Grx1, not only at the expression level, but can also directly modify Grx1 itself, decreasing its activity. These findings demonstrate a role for the Grx1/S-glutathionylation redox system in CS-induced lung epithelial cell death.
PMCID: PMC3262689  PMID: 21454804
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; cigarette smoke; cell death; glutaredoxin; protein S-glutathionylation
6.  Airway Epithelial NF-κB Activation Promotes Allergic Sensitization to an Innocuous Inhaled Antigen 
Activation of NF-κB in airway epithelium is observed in allergic asthma and is induced by inhalation of numerous infectious and reactive substances. Many of the substances that activate NF-κB in the airway epithelium are also capable of acting as adjuvants to elicit antigen-specific sensitization to concomitantly inhaled protein, thereby circumventing the inherent bias of the lung to promote tolerance to innocuous antigens. We have used a transgenic mouse inducibly expressing a constitutively active mutant of the inhibitor of nuclear factor κB (IκB) kinase β (CAIKKβ) that activates NF-κB only in nonciliated airway epithelial cells to test whether activation of this intracellular signaling pathway in this specific cell type is sufficient to establish a pulmonary environment permissive to the development of allergic sensitization to inhaled protein. When airway epithelial CAIKKβ was transiently expressed in antigen-naive mice only during initial inhalation of ovalbumin, the mice became allergically sensitized to the antigen. As a consequence, subsequent inhalation of ovalbumin alone led to an allergic asthma–like response that included airway hyperresponsiveness to methacholine, eosinophilia, mucus expression, elevated serum levels of antigen-specific IgE and IgG1, and splenic CD4+ T cells that secreted T helper type 2 and type 17 cytokines in response to in vitro antigen restimulation. Furthermore, CD11c+ cells in the mediastinal lymph nodes (MLN) of CAIKKβ-expressing mice displayed significantly elevated levels of activation markers. These data implicate airway epithelial NF-κB activation as a critical modulator of the adaptive immune response to inhaled antigens via the secretion of soluble mediators that affect the capacity of CD11c+ cells to undergo maturation and promote antigen-specific allergic responses.
PMCID: PMC3095983  PMID: 20581095
epithelial cell; antigen-presenting cell; NF-κB; allergy; asthma
7.  Ablation of Glutaredoxin-1 Attenuates Lipopolysaccharide-Induced Lung Inflammation and Alveolar Macrophage Activation 
Protein S-glutathionylation (PSSG), a reversible posttranslational modification of reactive cysteines, recently emerged as a regulatory mechanism that affects diverse cell-signaling cascades. The extent of cellular PSSG is controlled by the oxidoreductase glutaredoxin-1 (Grx1), a cytosolic enzyme that specifically de-glutathionylates proteins. Here, we sought to evaluate the impact of the genetic ablation of Grx1 on PSSG and on LPS-induced lung inflammation. In response to LPS, Grx1 activity increased in lung tissue and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid in WT (WT) mice compared with PBS control mice. Glrx1−/− mice consistently showed slight but statistically insignificant decreases in total numbers of inflammatory cells recovered by BAL. However, LPS-induced concentrations of IL-1β, TNF-α, IL-6, and Granulocyte/Monocyte Colony–Stimulating Factor (GM-CSF) in BAL were significantly decreased in Glrx1−/− mice compared with WT mice. An in situ assessment of PSSG reactivity and a biochemical evaluation of PSSG content demonstrated increases in the lung tissue of Glrx1−/− animals in response to LPS, compared with WT mice or PBS control mice. We also demonstrated that PSSG reactivity was prominent in alveolar macrophages (AMs). Comparative BAL analyses from WT and Glrx1−/− mice revealed fewer and smaller AMs in Glrx1−/− mice, which showed a significantly decreased expression of NF-κB family members, impaired nuclear translocation of RelA, and lower levels of NF-κB–dependent cytokines after exposure to LPS, compared with WT cells. Taken together, these results indicate that Grx1 regulates the production of inflammatory mediators through control of S-glutathionylation–sensitive signaling pathways such as NF-κB, and that Grx1 expression is critical to the activation of AMs.
PMCID: PMC3095922  PMID: 20539014
lipopolysaccharide; glutaredoxin-1; protein S-glutathionylation; nuclear factor-κB
8.  c-Jun N-Terminal Kinase 1 Promotes Transforming Growth Factor–β1–Induced Epithelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition via Control of Linker Phosphorylation and Transcriptional Activity of Smad3 
Transforming growth factor (TGF)–β1 is a key mediator of lung remodeling and fibrosis. Epithelial cells are both a source of and can respond to TGF-β1 with epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). We recently determined that TGF-β1–induced EMT in lung epithelial cells requires the presence of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) 1. Because TGF-β1 signals via Smad complexes, the goal of the present study was to determine the impact of JNK1 on phosphorylation of Smad3 and Smad3-dependent transcriptional responses in lung epithelial cells. Evaluation of JNK1-deficient lung epithelial cells demonstrated that TGF-β1–induced terminal phosphorylation of Smad3 was similar, whereas phosphorylation of mitogen-activated protein kinase sites in the linker regions of Smad3 was diminished, in JNK1-deficient cells compared with wild-type cells. In comparison to wild-type Smad3, expression of a mutant Smad3 in which linker mitogen-activated protein kinase sites were ablated caused a marked attenuation in JNK1 or TGF-β1–induced Smad-binding element transcriptional activity, and expression of plasminogen activator inhibitor–1, fibronectin-1, high-mobility group A2, CArG box–binding factor–A, and fibroblast-specific protein–1, genes critical in the process of EMT. JNK1 enhanced the interaction between Smad3 and Smad4, which depended on linker phosphorylation of Smad3. Conversely, Smad3 with phosphomimetic mutations in the linker domain further enhanced EMT-related genes and proteins, even in the absence of JNK1. Finally, we demonstrated a TGF-β1–induced interaction between Smad3 and JNK1. Collectively, these results demonstrate that Smad3 phosphorylation in the linker region and Smad transcriptional activity are directly or indirectly controlled by JNK1, and provide a putative mechanism whereby JNK1 promotes TGF-β1–induced EMT.
PMCID: PMC3095928  PMID: 20581097
transforming growth factor–β1; c-Jun N-terminal kinase 1; Smad3; epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition
9.  Distinct Functions of Airway Epithelial Nuclear Factor-κB Activity Regulate Nitrogen Dioxide–Induced Acute Lung Injury 
Reactive oxidants such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) injure the pulmonary epithelium, causing airway damage and inflammation. We previously demonstrated that nuclear factor-κ B (NF-κB) activation within airway epithelial cells occurs in response to NO2 inhalation, and is critical for lipopolysaccharide-induced or antigen-induced inflammatory responses. Here, we investigated whether manipulation of NF-κB activity in lung epithelium affected severe lung injuries induced by NO2 inhalation. Wild-type C57BL/6J, CC10-IκBαSR transgenic mice with repressed airway epithelial NF-κB function, or transgenic mice expressing a doxycycline-inducible, constitutively active I κ B kinase β (CC10-rTet-CAIKKβ) with augmented NF-κB function in airway epithelium, were exposed to toxic levels of 25 ppm or 50 ppm NO2 for 6 hours a day for 1 or 3 days. In wild-type mice, NO2 caused the activation of NF-κB in airway epithelium after 6 hours, and after 3 days resulted in severe acute lung injury, characterized by neutrophilia, peribronchiolar lesions, and increased protein, lactate dehydrogenase, and inflammatory cytokines. Compared with wild-type mice, neutrophilic inflammation and elastase activity, lung injury, and several proinflammatory cytokines were significantly suppressed in CC10-IκBαSR mice exposed to 25 or 50 ppm NO2. Paradoxically, CC10-rTet-CAIKKβ mice that received doxycycline showed no further increase in NO2-induced lung injury compared with wild-type mice exposed to NO2, instead displaying significant reductions in histologic parameters of lung injury, despite elevations in several proinflammatory cytokines. These intriguing findings demonstrate distinct functions of airway epithelial NF-κB activities in oxidant-induced severe acute lung injury, and suggest that although airway epithelial NF-κB activities modulate NO2-induced pulmonary inflammation, additional NF-κB–regulated functions confer partial protection from lung injury.
PMCID: PMC2951874  PMID: 19901348
epithelium; NF-κB; inflammation; nitrogen dioxide; lung injury
10.  Asbestos, Lung Cancers, and Mesotheliomas 
Fifteen years have passed since we published findings in the AJRCMB demonstrating that induction of early response fos/jun proto-oncogenes in rodent tracheal and mesothelial cells correlates with fibrous geometry and pathogenicity of asbestos. Our study was the first to suggest that the aberrant induction of signaling responses by crocidolite asbestos and erionite, a fibrous zeolite mineral associated with the development of malignant mesotheliomas (MMs) in areas of Turkey, led to altered gene expression. New data questioned the widely held belief at that time that the carcinogenic effects of asbestos in the development of lung cancer and MM were due to genotoxic or mutagenic effects. Later studies by our group revealed that proto-oncogene expression and several of the signaling pathways activated by asbestos were redox dependent, explaining why antioxidants and antioxidant enzymes were elevated in lung and pleura after exposure to asbestos and how they alleviated many of the phenotypic and functional effects of asbestos in vitro or after inhalation. Since these original studies, our efforts have expanded to understand the interface between asbestos-induced redox-dependent signal transduction cascades, the relationship between these pathways and cell fate, and the role of asbestos and cell interactions in development of asbestos-associated diseases. Of considerable significance is the fact that the signal transduction pathways activated by asbestos are also important in survival and chemoresistance of MMs and lung cancers. An understanding of the pathogenic features of asbestos fibers and dysregulation of signaling pathways allows strategies for the prevention and therapy of asbestos-related diseases.
PMCID: PMC2822975  PMID: 20068227
proto-oncogenes; mitogen-activated protein kinases; epidermal growth factor receptor; activator protein-1; nuclear factor-κB
11.  c-Jun N-Terminal Kinase 1 Is Required for the Development of Pulmonary Fibrosis 
Collagen deposition is observed in a diverse set of pulmonary diseases, and the unraveling of the molecular signaling pathways that facilitate collagen deposition represents an ongoing area of investigation. The stress-activated protein kinase, c-Jun N-terminal kinase 1 (JNK1), is activated by a large variety of cellular stresses and environmental insults. Recent work from our laboratory demonstrated the critical role of JNK1 in epithelial to mesenchymal transition. The goal of the present study was to examine the involvement of JNK1 in subepithelial collagen deposition in mice subjected to models of allergic airways disease and interstitial pulmonary fibrosis. Activation of JNK was slightly enhanced in lungs from mice subjected to sensitization and challenge with ovalbumin (Ova), and predominant localization of phospho-JNK was observed in the bronchial epithelium. While mice lacking JNK1 (JNK1−/− mice) displayed enhanced lung inflammation and cytokine production compared with wild-type (WT) mice, JNK1−/− mice accumulated less subepithelial collagen deposition in response to antigen, and showed decreased expression of profibrotic genes compared with WT animals. Furthermore, transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1 content in the bronchoalveolar lavage was diminished in JNK1−/− mice compared with WT animals subjected to antigen. Finally, we demonstrated that mice lacking JNK1 were protected against TGF-β1 and bleomycin-induced pro-fibrotic gene expression and pulmonary fibrosis. Collectively, these findings demonstrate an important requirement for JNK1 in promoting collagen deposition in multiple models of fibrosis.
PMCID: PMC2660560  PMID: 18836136
TGF-β; ovalbumin; asthma; fibrosis; bleomycin
12.  Nonphagocytic Oxidase 1 Causes Death in Lung Epithelial Cells via a TNF-RI–JNK Signaling Axis 
Airway epithelial cells are simultaneously exposed to and produce cytokines and reactive oxygen species (ROS) in inflammatory settings. The signaling events and the physiologic outcomes of exposure to these inflammatory mediators remain to be elucidated. Previously we demonstrated that in cultured mouse lung epithelial cells exposed to bolus administration of H2O2, TNF-α–induced NF-κB activity was inhibited, whereas c-Jun-N-terminal kinase (JNK) activation was enhanced via a mechanism involving TNF receptor-1 (TNF-RI). In this study we used the nonphagocytic NADPH oxidase (Nox1) to study the effects of endogenously produced ROS on a line of mouse alveolar type II epithelial cells. Nox1 expression and activation inhibited TNF-α–induced inhibitor of κB kinase (IKK), and NF-κB while promoting JNK activation and cell death. Nox1-induced JNK activation and cell death were attenuated through expression of a dominant-negative TNF-RI construct, implicating a role for TNF-RI in Nox1 signaling. Furthermore, Nox1 used the TNF-RI adaptor protein TNF-receptor–associated factor-2 (TRAF2), and the redox-regulated JNK MAP3K, apoptosis signal kinase-1 (ASK1), to activate JNK. In addition, ASK1 siRNA attenuated both Nox1-induced JNK activity and cell death. Collectively, these studies suggest a mechanism by which ROS produced in lung epithelial cells activate JNK and cause cell death using TNF-RI and the TRAF2–ASK1 signaling axis.
PMCID: PMC1899325  PMID: 17079781
Nox1; c-Jun-N-terminal kinase; hydrogen peroxide; cell death; TNF-RI
13.  Modulation of Glutaredoxin-1 Expression in a Mouse Model of Allergic Airway Disease 
Glutaredoxins (GRX) are antioxidant enzymes that preferentially catalyze the reduction of protein-glutathione mixed disulfides. The formation of mixed disulfides with GSH is known as S-glutathionylation, a post-translational modification that is emerging as an important mode of redox signaling. Since asthma is a disease that is associated with increased oxidative stress and altered antioxidant defenses, we investigated the expression of GRX in a murine model of allergic airway disease. Sensitization and challenge of C57BL/6 mice with ovalbumin resulted in increased expression of GRX1 mRNA, as well as increased amounts of GRX1 protein and total GRX activity in the lung. Because GRX1 expression is prominent in bronchial epithelium, we isolated primary epithelial cells from mouse trachea to investigate the presence of GRX. Primary tracheal epithelial cells were found to express both GRX1 and 2 mRNA and detectable GRX activity. Treatment with IFN-γ increased the expression of GRX1 and overall GRX activity, resulting in attenuation of protein S-glutathionylation. In contrast, TGF-β1 caused decreased GRX1 expression and overall GRX activity, leading to markedly enhanced protein S-glutathionylation. GRX1 joins the cadre of antioxidant defenses known to be modulated during allergic airway inflammation.
PMCID: PMC1899315  PMID: 16980552
glutaredoxin; asthma; epithelium; IFN-γ; TGF-β

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