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Am J Pathol. 2012 Feb;180(2):562-74. doi: 10.1016/j.ajpath.2011.10.029.

Targeted deletion of Jun/AP-1 in alveolar epithelial cells causes progressive emphysema and worsens cigarette smoke-induced lung inflammation.

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Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease appears to occur slowly and progressively over many years, with both genetic factors and environmental modifiers contributing to its pathogenesis. Although the c-Jun/activator protein 1 transcriptional factor regulates cell proliferation, apoptosis, and inflammatory responses, its role in lung pathogenesis is largely unknown. In this study, we report decreased expression levels of c-Jun mRNA and protein in the lung tissues of patients with advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and the genetic deletion of c-Jun specifically in alveolar epithelial cells causes progressive emphysema with lung inflammation and alveolar air space enlargement, which are cardinal features of emphysema. Although mice lacking c-Jun specifically in lung alveolar epithelial cells appear normal at the age of 6 weeks, when exposed to long-term cigarette smoke, c-Jun-mutant mice display more lung inflammation with perivascular and peribronchiolar infiltrates compared with controls. These results demonstrate that the c-Jun/activator protein 1 pathway is critical for maintaining lung alveolar cell homeostasis and that loss of its expression can contribute to lung inflammation and progressive emphysema.

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