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Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2010 Dec;43(6):635-40. doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2009-0297OC. Epub 2009 Dec 30.

Long-term cigarette smoke exposure in a mouse model of ciliated epithelial cell function.

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Pulmonary, Critical Care, Sleep, and Allergy Division, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Nebraska Medical Center, 985910 Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE 68198-5910, USA.


Exposure to cigarette smoke is associated with airway epithelial mucus cell hyperplasia and a decrease in cilia and ciliated cells. Few models have addressed the long-term effects of chronic cigarette smoke exposure on ciliated epithelial cells. Our previous in vitro studies showed that cigarette smoke decreases ciliary beat frequency (CBF) via the activation of protein kinase C (PKC). We hypothesized that chronic cigarette smoke exposure in an in vivo model would decrease airway epithelial cell ciliary beating in a PKC-dependent manner. We exposed C57BL/6 mice to whole-body cigarette smoke 2 hours/day, 5 days/week for up to 1 year. Tracheal epithelial cell CBF and the number of motile cells were measured after necropsy in cut tracheal rings, using high-speed digital video microscopy. Tracheal epithelial PKC was assayed according to direct kinase activity. At 6 weeks and 3 months of smoke exposure, the baseline CBF was slightly elevated (~1 Hz) versus control mice, with no change in β-agonist-stimulated CBF between control mice and cigarette smoke-exposed mice. By 6 months of smoke exposure, the baseline CBF was significantly decreased (2-3 Hz) versus control mice, and a β-agonist failed to stimulate increased CBF. The loss of β-agonist-increased CBF continued at 9 months and 12 months of smoke exposure, and the baseline CBF was significantly decreased to less than one third of the control rate. In addition to CBF, ciliated cell numbers significantly decreased in response to smoke over time, with a significant loss of tracheal ciliated cells occurring between 6 and 12 months. In parallel with the slowing of CBF, significant PKC activation from cytosol to the membrane of tracheal epithelial cells was detected in mice exposed to smoke for 6-12 months.

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