Mucus hypersecretion is a common pathological feature of chronic airway inflammatory diseases including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, the molecular basis for this condition remains incompletely understood. We have previously demonstrated a critical role of autophagy in COPD pathogenesis through mediating apoptosis of lung epithelial cells. In this study, we aimed to investigate the function of autophagy as well as its upstream and downstream signals in cigarette smoke-induced mucus production in human bronchial epithelial (HBE) cells and in mouse airways. Cigarette smoke extract (CSE), as well as the classical autophagy inducers starvation or Torin-1, significantly triggered MUC5AC expression, and inhibition of autophagy markedly attenuated CSE-induced mucus production. The CSE-induced autophagy was mediated by mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (mitoROS), which regulated mucin expression through the JNK and activator protein-1 pathway. Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) was also required for CSE-induced MUC5AC in HBE cells, but it exerted inconsiderable effects on the autophagy-JNK signaling cascade. Airways of mice with dysfunctional autophagy-related genes displayed a markedly reduced number of goblet cells and attenuated levels of Muc5ac in response to cigarette smoke exposure. These results altogether suggest that mitoROS-dependent autophagy is essential for cigarette smoke-induced mucus hyperproduction in airway epithelial cells, and reemphasize autophagy inhibition as a novel therapeutic strategy for chronic airway diseases.
- cigarette smoke
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Copyright © 2016 the American Physiological Society
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