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1.  Cigarette Smoke Triggers Code Red 
The article by Yao and coworkers in this issue (Am. J. Respir. Cell Mol. Biol. 2008;39:7–18) reveals that the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21CIP1/WAF1/SDI1 (designated hereafter as p21), which has been linked to cell cycle growth arrest due to stress or danger cell responses, may modulate alveolar inflammation and alveolar destruction, and thus enlightens our present understanding of how the lung senses injury due to cigarette smoke and integrates these responses with those that activate inflammatory pathways potentially harmful to the lung (1). Furthermore, the interplay of p21 and cellular processes involving cell senescence and the imbalance of cell proliferation/apoptosis may provide us with a more logical explanation of how p21, acting as a sensor of cellular stress, might have such potent and wide roles in lung responses triggered by cigarette smoke. Molecular switches, ontologically designed for the protection of the host, are now hijacked by injurious stresses (such as cigarette smoke), leading to organ damage.
PMCID: PMC2720121  PMID: 18441278
2.  Protective Role of IL-6 in Vascular Remodeling in Schistosoma Pulmonary Hypertension 
Schistosomiasis is one of the most common causes of pulmonary arterial hypertension worldwide, but the pathogenic mechanism by which the host inflammatory response contributes to vascular remodeling is unknown. We sought to identify signaling pathways that play protective or pathogenic roles in experimental Schistosoma-induced pulmonary vascular disease via whole-lung transcriptome analysis. Wild-type mice were experimentally exposed to Schistosoma mansoni ova by intraperitoneal sensitization followed by tail-vein augmentation, and the phenotype was assessed by right ventricular catheterization and tissue histology, as well as RNA and protein analysis. Whole-lung transcriptome analysis by microarray and RNA sequencing was performed, and RNA sequencing was analyzed according to two bioinformatics methods. Functional testing of the candidate IL-6 pathway was determined using IL-6 knockout mice and the signal transducers and activators of transcription protein–3 (STAT3) inhibitor S3I-201. Wild-type mice exposed to S. mansoni demonstrated increased right ventricular systolic pressure and thickness of the pulmonary vascular media. Whole-lung transcriptome analysis determined that the IL-6–STAT3–nuclear factor of activated T cells c2(NFATc2) pathway was up-regulated, as confirmed by PCR and the immunostaining of lung tissue from S. mansoni–exposed mice and patients who died of the disease. Mice lacking IL-6 or treated with S3I-201 developed pulmonary hypertension, associated with significant intima remodeling after exposure to S. mansoni. Whole-lung transcriptome analysis identified the up-regulation of the IL-6–STAT3–NFATc2 pathway, and IL-6 signaling was found to be protective against Schistosoma-induced intimal remodeling.
PMCID: PMC3931110  PMID: 23815102
pulmonary hypertension; schistosomiasis; gene expression profiling; IL-6
3.  α1-Antitrypsin Modulates Lung Endothelial Cell Inflammatory Responses to TNF-α 
α1-Antitrypsin (A1AT) is an acute-phase reactant, but also a major protective factor against the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a complex disease with sustained chronic inflammation. The lung-protective effects of A1AT have been attributed to the inhibition of proteases involved in lung matrix fragmentation, macrophage activation, and endothelial-cell apoptosis. More recently, A1AT has been shown to directly interact with or modulate the actions of cytokines such as TNF-α or IL-1 in inflammatory cells, but its effect on the lung endothelium, an active participant in the amplification and resolution of inflammation, has received little attention. An important role of A1AT in modulating lung endothelial inflammatory responses is expected, given the high concentrations of circulating A1AT during inflammation and its active uptake by endothelial cells. We investigated the role of A1AT in primary lung microvascular endothelial cell activation by relevant cytokines such as TNF-α or IL-1β. Despite an initial marked augmentation of TNF-α self-induced transcription, A1AT inhibited TNF-α receptor 1 up-regulation and significantly reduced TNF-α secretion, effects that were associated with inhibition of TNF-α–converting enzyme activity. Furthermore, A1AT inhibited calpain activity, whose activation by TNF-α contributed to decreased intracellular A1AT concentrations. These data indicate that A1AT initially facilitates acute responses of the endothelium to TNF-α, followed by selective inhibition of TNF-α–induced-self amplification, which may assist the vasculature in the resolution of chronic inflammation.
PMCID: PMC3727880  PMID: 23526215
proteinase inhibitor; serpin; vascular; inflammation; COPD
4.  Neutrophil Intercellular Communication in Acute Lung Injury. Emerging Roles of Microparticles and Gap Junctions 
A hallmark of acute inflammation involves the recruitment of polymorphonuclear leukocytes (neutrophils) to infected or injured tissues. The processes underlying this recruitment are complex, and include multiple mechanisms of intercellular communication between neutrophils and the inflamed tissue. In recent studies of the systemic and pulmonary vasculature, interest has increased in novel forms of intercellular communication, such as microparticle exchange and gap junctional intercellular communication. To understand the roles of these novel forms of communication in the onset, progression, and resolution of inflammatory lung injury (such as acute respiratory distress syndrome), we review the literature concerning the contributions of microparticle exchange and gap junctional intercellular communication to neutrophil–alveolar crosstalk during pulmonary inflammation. By focusing on these cell–cell communications, we aim to demonstrate significant gaps of knowledge and identify areas of considerable need for further investigations of the processes of acute lung inflammation.
PMCID: PMC3727882  PMID: 23815257
neutrophil; connexin; gap junction; microparticles; acute lung injury
5.  N-Acetylcysteine Protects Murine Alveolar Type II Cells from Cigarette Smoke Injury in a Nuclear Erythroid 2–Related Factor–2–Independent Manner 
Emphysema is caused by the cigarette smoke (CS)–induced destruction of alveolar wall septa, and CS is the main risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). To study the mechanisms of response to this insult, we focused on oxidant-induced lung injury and the potential role of nuclear erythroid 2–related factor–2 (Nrf2), which is a key regulator of the antioxidant defense system. We studied the protective role of N-acetylcysteine (NAC) against the injury of alveolar type II (ATII) cells induced by CS in vivo and in vitro. ATII cells were isolated and purified using magnetic MicroBeads (Miltenyi Biotec, Auburn, CA) from Nrf2−/− mice and wild-type mice. We analyzed pulmonary injury, inflammation, glutathione (GSH) concentrations, the expression of glutathione cysteine ligase catalytic subunit mRNA, glutathione cysteine ligase modifier subunit mRNA, and glutathione reductase mRNA, and Nrf2, heme oxygenase–1, and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate–reduced:quinone oxireductase levels by Western blotting, TUNEL assay, and immunocytofluorescence for 4-hydroxynonenal as a marker of oxidative stress. We found that CS induced greater injury in ATII cells obtained from Nrf2−/− mice than from wild-type mice. Furthermore, NAC attenuated the injuries by CS in ATII cells obtained from wild-type mice both in vivo and in vitro. Moreover, NAC decreased the injury of ATII cells obtained from Nrf2−/− mice. Our results suggest that Nrf2–GSH signaling is important for the protective activity of NAC. In addition, in ATII cells deficient in Nrf2, this compound can provide partial protection through its reactive oxygen species–scavenging activities. Targeting the antioxidant system regulated by Nrf2 may provide an effective strategy against lung injury in COPD.
PMCID: PMC3707381  PMID: 23492188
murine alveolar type II cells; lung; Nrf2; NAC; cigarette smoke
6.  RTP801 Is Required for Ceramide-Induced Cell-Specific Death in the Murine Lung 
Key host responses to the stress induced by environmental exposure to cigarette smoke (CS) are responsible for initiating pathogenic effects that may culminate in emphysema development. CS increases lung ceramides, sphingolipids involved in oxidative stress, structural alveolar cell apoptosis, and inhibition of apoptotic cell clearance by alveolar macrophages, leading to the development of emphysema-like pathology. RTP801, a hypoxia and oxidative stress sensor, is also increased by CS, and has been recently implicated in both apoptosis and inflammation. We investigated whether inductions of ceramide and RTP801 are mechanistically linked, and evaluated their relative importance in lung cell apoptosis and airspace enlargement in vivo. As reported, direct lung instillation of either RTP801 expression plasmid or ceramides in mice triggered alveolar cell apoptosis and oxidative stress. RTP801 overexpression up-regulated lung ceramide levels 2.6-fold. In turn, instillation of lung ceramides doubled the lung content of RTP801. Cell sorting after lung tissue dissociation into single-cell suspension showed that ceramide triggers both endothelial and epithelial cell apoptosis in vivo. Interestingly, mice lacking rtp801 were protected against ceramide-induced apoptosis of epithelial type II cells, but not type I or endothelial cells. Furthermore, rtp801-null mice were protected from ceramide-induced alveolar enlargement, and exhibited improved static lung compliance compared with wild-type mice. In conclusion, ceramide and RTP801 participate in alveolar cell apoptosis through a process of mutual up-regulation, which may result in self-amplification loops, leading to alveolar damage.
PMCID: PMC3547084  PMID: 23024063
emphysema; sphingolipids; apoptosis; cigarette smoke; stress response
7.  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
8.  Resistin-Like Molecule-β in Scleroderma-Associated Pulmonary Hypertension 
Scleroderma is a systemic, mixed connective tissue disease that can impact the lungs through pulmonary fibrosis, vascular remodeling, and the development of pulmonary hypertension and right heart failure. Currently, little is known about the molecular mechanisms that drive this condition, but we have recently identified a novel gene product that is up-regulated in a murine model of hypoxia-induced pulmonary hypertension. This molecule, known as hypoxia-induced mitogenic factor (HIMF), is a member of the newly described resistin gene family. We have demonstrated that HIMF has mitogenic, angiogenic, vasoconstrictive, inflammatory, and chemokine-like properties, all of which are associated with vascular remodeling in the lung. Here, we demonstrate that the human homolog of HIMF, resistin-like molecule (RELM)-β, is expressed in the lung tissue of patients with scleroderma-associated pulmonary hypertension and is up-regulated compared with normal control subjects. Immunofluorescence colocalization revealed that RELM-β is expressed in the endothelium and vascular smooth muscle of remodeled vessels, as well as in plexiform lesions, macrophages, T cells, and myofibroblast-like cells. We also show that addition of recombinant RELM-β induces proliferation and activation of ERK1/2 in primary cultured human pulmonary endothelial and smooth muscle cells. These results suggest that RELM-β may be involved in the development of scleroderma-associated pulmonary hypertension.
PMCID: PMC2778162  PMID: 19251945
pulmonary hypertension; scleroderma; resistin-like molecule β; hypoxia-induced mitogenic factor; T helper type 2
9.  Apoptotic Sphingolipid Signaling by Ceramides in Lung Endothelial Cells 
The de novo pathway of ceramide synthesis has been implicated in the pathogenesis of excessive lung apoptosis and murine emphysema. Intracellular and paracellular-generated ceramides may trigger apoptosis and propagate the death signals to neighboring cells, respectively. In this study we compared the sphingolipid signaling pathways triggered by the paracellular- versus intracellular-generated ceramides as they induce lung endothelial cell apoptosis, a process important in emphysema development. Intermediate–chain length (C8:0) extracellular ceramides, used as a surrogate of paracellular ceramides, triggered caspase-3 activation in primary mouse lung endothelial cells, similar to TNF-α–generated endogenous ceramides. Inhibitory siRNA against serine palmitoyl transferase subunit 1 but not acid sphingomyelinase inhibited both C8:0 ceramide– and TNF-α (plus cycloheximide)–induced apoptosis, consistent with the requirement for activation of the de novo pathway of sphingolipid synthesis. Tandem mass spectrometry analysis detected increases in both relative and absolute levels of C16:0 ceramide in response to C8:0 and TNF-α treatments. These results implicate the de novo pathway of ceramide synthesis in the apoptotic effects of both paracellular ceramides and TNF-α–stimulated intracellular ceramides in primary lung endothelial cells. The serine palmitoyl synthase-regulated ceramides synthesis may contribute to the amplification of pulmonary vascular injury induced by excessive ceramides.
PMCID: PMC2396244  PMID: 18192502
apoptosis; lung; cytokines; signaling; sphingolipids
10.  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
11.  Molecular Multitasking in the Airspace 
PMCID: PMC1976548  PMID: 17541009

Results 1-12 (12)