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Int Immunopharmacol. 2012 May;13(1):73-81. doi: 10.1016/j.intimp.2012.03.006. Epub 2012 Mar 27.

Quercetin attenuates airway inflammation and mucus production induced by cigarette smoke in rats.

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Division of Pulmonary Disease, State Key Laboratory of Biotherapy and Department of Respiratory Medicine, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, Chengdu, Sichuan, PR China.


Mucus hypersecretion is a feature of many chronic airway diseases induced by cigarette smoke (CS), and evidence suggests that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory flavonoid quercetin may protect against CS-induced respiratory pathology. In this study, the ability of quercetin to protect against CS-induced mucin expression was examined in vivo and in vitro. Quercetin or 0.2% Tween aqueous solution was administered intraperitoneally to rats,which were then exposed to CS for 28 days. Cell counts and pro-inflammatory cytokine levels were measured in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF). Lung tissue was examined for total glutathione (GSH) and total antioxidant capacity (T-AOC), histopathological lesions, goblet cell hyperplasia, epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) phosphorylation and NF-κB pathway activation. To complement these in vitro studies, human airway epithelial NCI-H292 cells were pretreated with quercetin and then exposed to cigarette smoke extract (CSE). Cell lysates were examined for Muc5ac expression, EGFR phosphorylation and NF-κB pathway activation. In vivo, quercetin pretreatment suppressed CS-induced goblet cell hyperplasia, inflammation, oxidative stress, EGFR phosphorylation and NF-κB pathway activation in rat lung. In vitro, quercetin pretreatment attenuated the CSE-induced Muc5ac expression, NF-κB activation and EGFR phosphorylation. Our results suggest that quercetin attenuates CS-induced mucin protein synthesis in rat lung, possibly by inhibiting oxidative stress and inflammation via a mechanism involving NF-κB pathway activation and EGFR phosphorylation. These findings suggest that quercetin has a potential for treating chronic airway diseases.

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