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Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2019 Nov 6. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00329.2019. [Epub ahead of print]

Mitochondria: at the crossroads of regulating lung epithelial cell function in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

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Medical Microbiology, Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg, Germany.
Respiratory Medicine, Maastricht University Medical Centre, Netherlands.
Department of Pathology and Medical Biology, GRIAC Research Institute, University of Groningen, University Medical Center Groningen, Netherlands.
Medical Microbiology, Otto-von Guericke University Magdeburg, Germany.
Pulmonology, Leiden University Medical Center, Netherlands.
Weill Cornell Medicine, United States.
Department of Pathology and Medical Biology, Experimental Pulmonology and Inflammation Research, University of Groningen, University Medical Center Groningen, Netherlands.


Disturbances in mitochondrial structure and function in lung epithelial cells have been implicated in the pathogenesis of various lung diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Such disturbances not only affect cellular energy metabolism, but also alter a range of indispensable cellular homeostatic functions in which mitochondria are known to be involved. These range from cellular differentiation, cell death pathways and cellular remodeling to physical barrier function and innate immunity, all of which are known to be impacted by exposure to cigarette smoke and have been linked to COPD pathogenesis. Next to their well-established role as the first physical frontline against external insults, lung epithelial cells are immunologically active. Malfunctioning epithelial cells with defective mitochondria are unable to maintain homeostasis and respond adequately to further stress or injury, which may ultimately shape the phenotype of lung diseases. In this review, we provide a comprehensive overview of the impact of cigarette smoke on the development of mitochondrial dysfunction in the lung epithelium and highlight the consequences for cell function, innate immune responses, epithelial remodeling and epithelial barrier function in COPD. We also discuss the applicability and potential therapeutic value of recently proposed strategies for the restoration of mitochondrial function in the treatment of COPD.


COPD; Mitochondrial dysfunction; cigarette smoke; lung epithelial cells


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