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Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2011 Mar;44(3):404-14. doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2009-0382OC. Epub 2010 May 12.

Endoplasmic reticulum stress induced by surfactant protein C BRICHOS mutants promotes proinflammatory signaling by epithelial cells.

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Surfactant Biology Laboratories, Pulmonary and Critical Care Division, Department of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, USA.


Chronic interstitial lung disease in both adults and children is associated with mutations of the surfactant protein C (SP-C) proprotein. Among these, mutations within the distal COOH propeptide, known as the BRICHOS domain, are associated with a severe disease phenotype. We showed that prolonged expression of the BRICHOS mutants, SP-C(Δexon4) and SP-C(L188Q), destabilizes endoplasmic reticulum (ER) quality-control mechanisms (the unfolded protein response, or UPR), resulting in the induction of ER stress signaling, an inhibition of the ubiquitin/proteasome system, and the activation of apoptotic pathways. Based on recent observations that the UPR and ER stress can be linked to the induction of proinflammatory signaling, we hypothesized that the epithelial cell dysfunction mediated by SP-C BRICHOS mutants would activate proinflammatory signaling pathways. In a test of this hypothesis, A549 and human embryonic kidney epithelial (HEK293) cells, transiently transfected with either SP-C(Δexon4) or SP-C(L188Q) mutants, each promoted the upregulation of multiple UPR response genes, including homocysteine-inducible, endoplasmic reticulum stress-inducible, ubiquitin-like domain member 1 (HERPUD1) and GRP78. Commensurate with these results, increases in IL-8 secretion occurred and were accompanied by the activation of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK)/activating protein-1 signaling. The stimulation of IL-8 cytokine release was completely attenuated by treatment with the JNK-specific inhibitor, SP600125. In addition, SP-C(Δexon4), but not SP-C(L188Q), activated NFκB. The treatment of SP-C(Δexon4) transfected cells with 4-phenylbutyric acid, a small molecule chaperone known to improve protein folding, blocked the activation of NFκB, but not the release of IL-8. Taken together, the results support the role of JNK signaling in mediating SP-C BRICHOS-induced cytokine release, and provide a link between SP-C BRICHOS mutants and proinflammatory cytokine signaling.

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