Emphysema is one of the major pathological abnormalities associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The protease/antiprotease imbalance and inflammation resulting from oxidative stress have been attributed to the pathogenesis of emphysema. Nrf2 is believed to protect against oxidative tissue damage through the transcriptional activation of a battery of antioxidant enzymes. In this study, we investigated the protective role of Nrf2 in the development of emphysema using elastase-induced emphysema as our model system. We found that elastase-provoked emphysema was markedly exacerbated in Nrf2-knockout (KO) mice compared with wild-type mice. The severity of emphysema in Nrf2-KO mice correlated intimately with the degree of lung inflammation in the initial stage of elastase treatment. The highly inducible expression of antioxidant and antiprotease genes observed in wild-type alveolar macrophages was significantly attenuated in the lungs of Nrf2-KO mice. Interestingly, transplantation of wild-type bone marrow cells into Nrf2-KO mice retarded the development of initial lung inflammation and subsequent emphysema, and this improvement correlated well with the appearance of macrophages expressing Nrf2-regulated antiprotease and antioxidant genes. Thus, Nrf2 appears to exert its protective effects through the transcriptional activation of antiprotease and antioxidant genes in alveolar macrophages.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy