, Volume 68, Issue 5, pp 877-892
Date: 06 Sep 2010

Cigarette smoking reprograms apical junctional complex molecular architecture in the human airway epithelium in vivo

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Abstract

The apical junctional complex (AJC), composed of tight and adherens junctions, maintains epithelial barrier function. Since cigarette smoking and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the major smoking-induced disease, are associated with increased lung epithelial permeability, we hypothesized that smoking alters the transcriptional program regulating airway epithelial AJC integrity. Transcriptome analysis revealed global down-regulation of physiological AJC gene expression in the airway epithelium of healthy smokers (n = 59) compared to nonsmokers (n = 53) in association with changes in canonical epithelial differentiation pathways such as PTEN signaling accompanied by induction of cancer-related AJC components. The overall expression of AJC-related genes was further decreased in COPD smokers (n = 23). Exposure of airway epithelial cells to cigarette smoke extract in vitro resulted in down-regulation of several AJC genes paralleled by decreased transepithelial resistance. Thus, cigarette smoking induces transcriptional reprogramming of airway epithelial AJC architecture from its physiological pattern necessary for barrier function toward a disease-associated molecular phenotype.