The aryl hydrocarbon receptor suppresses cigarette-smoke-induced oxidative stress in association with dioxin response element (DRE)-independent regulation of sulfiredoxin 1
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The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) is a ubiquitously expressed receptor/transcription factor that mediates toxicological responses of environmental contaminants such as 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). Emerging evidence indicates that the AhR suppresses apoptosis and proliferation independent of exogenous ligands, including suppression of apoptosis by cigarette smoke, a key risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). As cigarette smoke is a potent inducer of oxidative stress, a feature that may contribute to the development of COPD, we hypothesized that the AhR prevents smoke-induced apoptosis by regulating oxidative stress. Utilizing primary lung fibroblasts derived from AhR(+/+) and AhR(-/-) mice as well as A549 human lung adenocarcinoma cells deficient in AhR expression (A549-AhR(ko)), we first show that AhR(-/-) fibroblasts and A549-AhR(ko) epithelial cells have a significant increase in cigarette smoke extract (CSE)-induced oxidative stress compared to wild type. CSE induced a significant increase in the mRNA expression of key antioxidant genes, including Nqo1 and Srxn1, predominantly in AhR(+/+) fibroblasts, with significantly less induction in AhR(-/-) cells. The induction of Srxn1, but not Nqo1, was independent of dioxin-response element (DRE) binding as AhR(DBD/DBD) lung fibroblasts, which express an AhR incapable of binding the DRE, increased Srxn1 to a degree similar to wild-type cells in response to CSE. There was no difference in Nrf2 expression or activation based on AhR expression. Lung fibroblasts derived from COPD subjects have significantly less AhR protein expression compared with both never-smokers (Normal) and smokers (At Risk). Consequently, COPD-derived fibroblasts were less robust in their induction of both Nqo1 and Srxn1 mRNA after exposure to CSE, which also failed to activate the AhR in the COPD fibroblasts. Taken together, these results support a new role for the AhR in regulating antioxidant defense in lung structural cells, such that low AhR expression may facilitate the development or progression of COPD.
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