Background: Airway epithelial barrier function is maintained by the formation of tight junctions (TJs) and adherens junctions (AJs). Inhalation of cigarette smoke causes airway epithelial barrier dysfunction and may contribute to the pathogenesis of chronic lung diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). We assessed the effects of cigarette smoke on barrier function and expression of multiple TJ and AJ proteins in the bronchial epithelium. We also examined whether treatment with glucocorticosteroids (GCSs), long-acting β2-agonists (LABAs), and human cathelicidin LL-37 can protect against cigarette smoke extract (CSE)-induced barrier dysfunction. Methods: Calu-3 cells cultured at the air-liquid interface were pretreated with or without GCSs, LABAs, GCSs plus LABAs, or LL-37, and subsequently exposed to CSE. Barrier function was assessed by transepithelial electronic resistance (TEER) measurements. Gene and protein expression levels of TJ and AJ proteins were analyzed by quantitative PCR and western blotting, respectively. Immunofluorescence staining of TJ and AJ proteins was performed. Results: CSE decreased TEER and increased permeability in a concentration-dependent manner. CSE suppressed gene expression of claudin-1, claudin-3, claudin-4, claudin-7, claudin-15, occludin, E-cadherin, junctional adhesion molecule-A (JAM-A) and zonula occludens-1 (ZO-1) within 12 h post-CSE exposure, while suppressed protein expression levels of occludin at 12 h. CSE-treated cells exhibited discontinuous or attenuated immunostaining for claudin-1, claudin-3, claudin-4, occludin, ZO-1, and E-cadherin compared with untreated cells. GCS treatment partially restored CSE-induced TEER reduction, while LABA treatment had no effect. GCS and LABA combination treatment had no additive effect on CSE-induced TEER reduction and gene suppression of TJ and AJ proteins. Human cathelicidin LL-37 counteracted CSE-induced TEER reduction and prevented disruption of occludin and ZO-1. LL-37 also attenuated CSE-induced decreases in gene and protein expression levels of occludin. Conclusions: CSE caused airway epithelial barrier dysfunction and simultaneously downregulated multiple TJ and AJ proteins. GCS and LABA combination treatment had no additive effect on CSE-induced TEER reduction. LL-37 counteracted CSE-induced TEER reduction and prevented disruption of occludin and ZO-1. Use of LL-37 to counteract airway epithelial barrier dysfunction may have significant benefits for respiratory diseases such as asthma and COPD.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine