Cigarette smoke exposure decreases CFLAR expression in the bronchial epithelium, augmenting susceptibility for lung epithelial cell death and DAMP release

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Scientific Reports, 2018, 8 (1)
Issue Date:
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© 2018, The Author(s). Cigarette smoking is a major risk factor for the inflammatory disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The mechanism by which cigarette smoke (CS) induces chronic lung inflammation is still largely unknown. We hypothesize that immunogenic airway epithelial cell death is involved in the initiation of the inflammatory response. We previously identified CFLAR, the gene encoding the cell death regulator protein c-FLIP, to be associated with CS-induced release of damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs). Here, we investigated the effect of CS on expression levels of CFLAR in bronchial biopsies from smokers and non-smokers and CFLAR transcript isoform-expression in a dataset of air-liquid interface-differentiated bronchial epithelial cells. Furthermore, CFLAR was down-regulated by siRNA in lung epithelial A549 cells, followed by investigation of the effects on apoptosis, necrosis and DAMP release. CS exposure significantly decreased CFLAR expression in bronchial epithelial cells. Moreover, we observed a shift in relative abundance of the isoforms c-FLIPS and c-FLIPL transcripts in bronchial biopsies of current smokers compared to non-smokers, consistent with a shift towards necroptosis. In vitro, down-regulation of CFLAR increased apoptosis at baseline as well as CS extract-induced necrosis and DAMP release. In conclusion, CS exposure decreases CFLAR expression, which might increase susceptibility to immunogenic cell death.
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