Cigarette smoke extract induces differential expression levels of beta-defensin peptides in human alveolar epithelial cells
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School of Systems Biology, George Mason University, Manassas, USA
National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases, George Mason University, Manassas, USA
Discovery Hall, George Mason University, Manassas, USA
Monique L van Hoek   

School of Systems Biology, George Mason University, Manassas, VA, USA
Submission date: 2013-02-04
Acceptance date: 2013-04-12
Publication date: 2013-04-29
Tobacco Induced Diseases 2013;11(April):10
The damaging effects of cigarette smoke on the lungs are well known in terms of cancer risks. Additional molecular changes within the lung tissue can also occur as a result of exposure to cigarette smoke. The human β-defensin (hBD) class of antimicrobial peptides is the focus of our research. In addition to antimicrobial activity, β-defensins also have immunomodulatory functions. Over 30 previously unrecognized β-defensin genes have recently been identified in the human genome, many with yet to be determined functions. We postulated that altered β-defensin production may play a role in the pathogenesis observed in the lungs of smokers. Our hypothesis is that cigarette smoke exposure will affect the expression of β-defensins in human lung alveolar epithelial cells (A549).

We exposed A549 cells to cigarette smoke extract (CSE) and measured the changes in mRNA levels of several antimicrobial peptides by quantitative real-time PCR, and directly observed peptide expression in cells by immunofluorescence (IF) microscopy.

We found that hBD3, hBD5, and hBD9 gene expression was upregulated in A549 cells exposed to CSE. HBD1, hBD8, hBD18 and LL-37 gene expression did not significantly change upon exposure to CSE. Expression of hBD3 and hBD4 peptides was visualized by IF.

This differential expression suggests that hBD3, hBD5, and hBD9 may play a role in the changes to the lung tissue observed in smokers. Establishing differential β-defensin expression following CSE treatment will add to our understanding of the molecular response of the lung alveolar epithelium to cigarette smoke exposure.

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