Distinct Functions of Airway Epithelial Nuclear Factor-κB Activity Regulate Nitrogen Dioxide-Induced Acute Lung Injury

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Reactive oxidants such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) injure the pulmonary epithelium, causing airway damage and inflammation. We previously demonstrated that nuclear factor-κ B (NF-κB) activation within airway epithelial cells occurs in response to NO2 inhalation, and is critical for lipopolysaccharide-induced or antigen-induced inflammatory responses. Here, we investigated whether manipulation of NF-κB activity in lung epithelium affected severe lung injuries induced by NO2 inhalation. Wild-type C57BL/6J, CC10-IκBαSR transgenic mice with repressed airway epithelial NF-κB function, or transgenic mice expressing a doxycycline-inducible, constitutively active I κ B kinase β (CC10-rTet-CAIKKβ) with augmented NF-κB function in airway epithelium, were exposed to toxic levels of 25 ppm or 50 ppm NO2 for 6 hours a day for 1 or 3 days. In wild-type mice, NO2 caused the activation of NF-κB in airway epithelium after 6 hours, and after 3 days resulted in severe acute lung injury, characterized by neutrophilia, peribronchiolar lesions, and increased protein, lactate dehydrogenase, and inflammatory cytokines. Compared with wild-type mice, neutrophilic inflammation and elastase activity, lung injury, and several proinflammatory cytokines were significantly suppressed in CC10-IκBαSR mice exposed to 25 or 50 ppm NO2. Paradoxically, CC10-rTet-CAIKKβ mice that received doxycycline showed no further increase in NO2-induced lung injury compared with wild-type mice exposed to NO2, instead displaying significant reductions in histologic parameters of lung injury, despite elevations in several proinflammatory cytokines. These intriguing findings demonstrate distinct functions of airway epithelial NF-κB activities in oxidant-induced severe acute lung injury, and suggest that although airway epithelial NF-κB activities modulate NO2-induced pulmonary inflammation, additional NF-κB-regulated functions confer partial protection from lung injury.

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