Main content area

Cigarette smoke exposure reveals a novel role for the MEK/ERK1/2 MAPK pathway in regulation of CFTR

Xu, Xiaohua, Balsiger, Robert, Tyrrell, Jean, Boyaka, Prosper N., Tarran, Robert, Cormet-Boyaka, Estelle
BBA - General Subjects 2015 v.1850 pp. 1224-1232
RNA, acetylcysteine, antioxidants, cell viability, cigarettes, cystic fibrosis, epithelial cells, homeostasis, humans, mitogen-activated protein kinase, plasma membrane, primary contact, proteasome endopeptidase complex, signal transduction
Cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator plays a key role in maintenance of lung fluid homeostasis. Cigarette smoke decreases CFTR expression in the lung but neither the mechanisms leading to CFTR loss, nor potential ways to prevent its loss have been identified to date.The molecular mechanisms leading to down-regulation of CFTR by cigarette smoke were determined using pharmacologic inhibitors and silencing ribonucleic acids (RNAs).Using human bronchial epithelial cells, here we show that cigarette smoke induces degradation of CFTR that is attenuated by lysosomal inhibitors, but not proteasome inhibitors. Cigarette smoke can activate multiple signaling pathways in airway epithelial cells, including the MEK/Erk1/2 MAPK (MEK: mitogen-activated protein kinase/ERK kinase Erk1/2: extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 MAPK: Mitogen-activated protein kinase) pathway regulating cell survival. Interestingly, pharmacological inhibition of the MEK/Erk1/2 MAPK pathway prevented the loss of plasma membrane CFTR upon cigarette smoke exposure. Similarly, decreased expression of Erk1/2 using silencing RNAs prevented the suppression of CFTR protein by cigarette smoke. Conversely, specific inhibitors of the c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) or p38 MAPK pathways had no effect on CFTR decrease after cigarette smoke exposure. In addition, inhibition of the MEK/Erk1/2 MAPK pathway prevented the reduction of the airway surface liquid observed upon cigarette smoke exposure of primary human airway epithelial cells. Finally, addition of the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine inhibited activation of Erk1/2 by cigarette smoke and precluded the cigarette smoke-induced decrease of CFTR.These results show that the MEK/Erk1/2 MAPK pathway regulates plasma membrane CFTR in human airway cells.The MEK/Erk1/2 MAPK pathway should be considered as a target for strategies to maintain/restore CFTR expression in the lung of smokers.