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      Endoplasmic reticulum chaperone GRP78 mediates cigarette smoke-induced necroptosis and injury in bronchial epithelium

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          Bronchial epithelial cell death and airway inflammation induced by cigarette smoke (CS) have been involved in the pathogenesis of COPD. GRP78, belonging to heat shock protein 70 family, has been implicated in cell death and inflammation, while little is known about its roles in COPD. Here, we demonstrate that GRP78 regulates CS-induced necroptosis and injury in bronchial epithelial cells.

          Materials and methods

          GRP78 and necroptosis markers were examined in human bronchial epithelial (HBE) cell line, primary mouse tracheal epithelial cells, and mouse lungs. siRNA targeting GRP78 gene and necroptosis inhibitor were used. Expression of inflammatory cytokines, mucin MUC5AC, and related signaling pathways were detected.


          Exposure to CS significantly increased the expression of GRP78 and necroptosis markers in HBE cell line, primary mouse tracheal epithelial cells, and mouse lungs. Inhibition of GRP78 significantly suppressed CS extract (CSE)-induced necroptosis. Furthermore, GRP78–necroptosis cooperatively regulated CSE-induced inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin 6 (IL6), IL8, and mucin MUC5AC in HBE cells, likely through the activation of nuclear factor (NF-κB) and activator protein 1 (AP-1) pathways, respectively.


          Taken together, our results demonstrate that GRP78 promotes CSE-induced inflammatory response and mucus hyperproduction in airway epithelial cells, likely through upregulation of necroptosis and subsequent activation of NF-κB and AP-1 pathways. Thus, inhibition of GRP78 and/or inhibition of necroptosis could be the effective therapeutic approaches for the treatment of COPD.

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          Most cited references 26

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          The impact of the unfolded protein response on human disease

          A central function of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is to coordinate protein biosynthetic and secretory activities in the cell. Alterations in ER homeostasis cause accumulation of misfolded/unfolded proteins in the ER. To maintain ER homeostasis, eukaryotic cells have evolved the unfolded protein response (UPR), an essential adaptive intracellular signaling pathway that responds to metabolic, oxidative stress, and inflammatory response pathways. The UPR has been implicated in a variety of diseases including metabolic disease, neurodegenerative disease, inflammatory disease, and cancer. Signaling components of the UPR are emerging as potential targets for intervention and treatment of human disease.
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            Beyond the endoplasmic reticulum: atypical GRP78 in cell viability, signalling and therapeutic targeting.

            GRP78 (glucose-regulated protein of 78 kDa) is traditionally regarded as a major ER (endoplasmic reticulum) chaperone facilitating protein folding and assembly, protein quality control, Ca(2+) binding and regulating ER stress signalling. It is a potent anti-apoptotic protein and plays a critical role in tumour cell survival, tumour progression and angiogenesis, metastasis and resistance to therapy. Recent evidence shows that GRP78 can also exist outside the ER. The finding that GRP78 is present on the surface of cancer but not normal cells in vivo represents a paradigm shift on how GRP78 controls cell homoeostasis and provides an opportunity for cancer-specific targeting. Cell-surface GRP78 has emerged as an important regulator of tumour cell signalling and viability as it forms complexes with a rapidly expanding repertoire of cell-surface protein partners, regulating proliferation, PI3K (phosphoinositide 3-kinase)/Akt signalling and cell viability. Evidence is also emerging that GRP78 serves as a receptor for viral entry into host cells. Additionally, a novel cytosolic form of GRP78 has been discovered prominently in leukaemia cells. These, coupled with reports of nucleus- and mitochondria-localized forms of GRP78, point to the previously unanticipated role of GRP78 beyond the ER that may be critical for cell viability and therapeutic targeting. © The Authors Journal compilation © 2011 Biochemical Society
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              Egr-1 Regulates Autophagy in Cigarette Smoke-Induced Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

              Background Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive lung disease characterized by abnormal cellular responses to cigarette smoke, resulting in tissue destruction and airflow limitation. Autophagy is a degradative process involving lysosomal turnover of cellular components, though its role in human diseases remains unclear. Methodology and Principal Findings Increased autophagy was observed in lung tissue from COPD patients, as indicated by electron microscopic analysis, as well as by increased activation of autophagic proteins (microtubule-associated protein-1 light chain-3B, LC3B, Atg4, Atg5/12, Atg7). Cigarette smoke extract (CSE) is an established model for studying the effects of cigarette smoke exposure in vitro. In human pulmonary epithelial cells, exposure to CSE or histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor rapidly induced autophagy. CSE decreased HDAC activity, resulting in increased binding of early growth response-1 (Egr-1) and E2F factors to the autophagy gene LC3B promoter, and increased LC3B expression. Knockdown of E2F-4 or Egr-1 inhibited CSE-induced LC3B expression. Knockdown of Egr-1 also inhibited the expression of Atg4B, a critical factor for LC3B conversion. Inhibition of autophagy by LC3B-knockdown protected epithelial cells from CSE-induced apoptosis. Egr-1 −/− mice, which displayed basal airspace enlargement, resisted cigarette-smoke induced autophagy, apoptosis, and emphysema. Conclusions We demonstrate a critical role for Egr-1 in promoting autophagy and apoptosis in response to cigarette smoke exposure in vitro and in vivo. The induction of autophagy at early stages of COPD progression suggests novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of cigarette smoke induced lung injury.

                Author and article information

                Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis
                Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis
                International Journal of COPD
                International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
                Dove Medical Press
                09 February 2018
                : 13
                : 571-581
                [1 ]Department of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Second Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University School of Medicine, Hangzhou
                [2 ]State Key Laboratory of Respiratory Disease, Guangzhou, People’s Republic of China
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Zhi-Hua Chen, Department of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Second Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University School of Medicine, 88 Jiefang Road, Hangzhou 310009, People’s Republic of China, Tel +86 571 8898 1913, Fax +86 571 8778 3729, Email zhihuachen@
                © 2018 Wang et al. This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited

                The full terms of this license are available at and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed.

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