Azithromycin ameliorates airway remodeling via inhibiting airway epithelium apoptosis

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Azithromycin can benefit treating allergic airway inflammation and remodeling. In the present study, we hypothesized that azithromycin alleviated airway epithelium injury through inhibiting airway epithelium apoptosis via down regulation of caspase-3 and Bax/Bcl2 ratio in vivo and in vitro.

Main methods

Ovalbumin induced rat asthma model and TGF-β1-induced BEAS-2B cell apoptosis model were established, respectively. In vivo experiments, airway epithelium was stained with hematoxylin and eosin (HE) and periodic acid–Schiff (PAS) to histologically evaluate the airway inflammation and remodeling. Airway epithelium apoptotic index (AI) was further analyzed by terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL), while expression of apoptosis related gene (Bax, Bcl2, Caspase-3) in lungs were measured by qRT-PCR and western blotting, respectively. In vitro experiments, apoptosis were evaluated by Flow cytometry (FCM) and TUNEL. Above apoptosis related gene were also measured by qRT-PCR and western blotting.

Key findings

Compared with the OVA group, azithromycin significantly reduced the inflammation score, peribronchial smooth muscle layer thickness, epithelial thickening and goblet cell metaplasia (P < 0.05), and effectively suppressed AI of airway epithelium (P < 0.05). Moreover, the increasing mRNA and protein expressions of Caspase-3 and Bax/Bcl-2 ratio in lung tissue were all significantly decreased in azithromycin-treated rats (P < 0.05). In vitro, azithromycin significantly suppressed TGF-β1-induced BEAS-2B cells apoptosis (P < 0.05) and reversed TGF-β1 elevated Caspase-3 mRNA level and Bax/Bcl-2 ratio (P < 0.05).


Azithromycin is an attractive treatment option for reducing airway epithelial cell apoptosis by improving the imbalance of Bax/Bcl-2 ratio and inhibiting Caspase-3 level in airway epithelium.

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