Current Molecular Medicine (v.12, #7)

Proteostasis is a critical cellular homeostasis mechanism that regulates the concentration of all cellular proteins by controlling protein- synthesis, processing and degradation. This includes proteinconformation, binding interactions and sub-cellular localization. Environmental, genetic or age-related pathogenetic factors can modulate the proteostasis (proteostasis-imbalance) through transcriptional, translational and post-translational changes that trigger the development of several complex diseases. Although these factors are known to be involved in pathogenesis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the role of proteostasis mechanisms in COPD is scarcely investigated. As a proof of concept, our recent data reveals a novel role of proteostasis-imbalance in COPD pathogenesis. Briefly, cigarette- and biomass- smoke induced proteostasis-imbalance may aggravate chronic inflammatory-oxidative stress and/or protease-anti-protease imbalance resulting in pathogenesis of severe emphysema. In contrast, pathogenesis of other chronic lung diseases like ΔF508-cystic fibrosis (CF), α1-anti-trypsin-deficiency (α-1 ATD) and pulmonary fibrosis (PF) is regulated by other proteostatic mechanisms, involving the degradation of misfolded proteins (ΔF508-CFTR/α1-AT- Z variant) or regulating the concentration of signaling proteins (such as TGF-β1) by the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS). The therapeutic strategies to correct proteostasis-imbalance in misfolded protein disorders such as ΔF508-CF have been relatively well studied and involve strategies that rescue functional CFTR protein to treat the underlying cause of the disease. While in the case of COPDemphysema and/or PF, identification of novel proteostasis-regulators that can control inflammatory-oxidative stress and/or protease-anti-protease balance is warranted.

Airways stress diseases (ASDs), including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema and asthma, are predicted to become the third leading cause of morbidity and mortality by 2020. An understanding and the treatment of these diseases will have a high impact on human health and the health system. An emerging area of heathspan impact is the link between ASDs and proteome homeostasis or ‘proteostasis‘, a biological system comprised of > 2000 components that direct the generation, maintenance and removal of proteins to achieve normal function. Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (αA1TD) aggregates activating extracellular folding stress pathways, dysregulation of nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) and misprocessing by histone acetyltransferase (HAT)/histone deacetylase (HDAC) pathways represent key examples of proteostasis imbalance involved in ASDs. Common to these events in the lung is a chronic inflammatory response in response to nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) signaling and protein folding stress associated with an excess of mucus secretion, tissue remodeling, peribronchiolar fibrosis, bronchoconstriction and aveolar destruction. All of these emergent properties of disease are a consequence of imbalance in the proteostasis system. Herein, we discuss the role of proteostasis and its consequences on lung pathophysiology in inflammatory ASDs, and suggest how manipulating the proteostasis network through pharmacological intervention of proteostasis pathways could provide multiple routes for the restoration of lung physiology.

α-1 anti-trypsin (AAT) is the most abundant circulating serine protease inhibitor (serpin) and an acute phase reactant. Systemic deficiency in AAT (AATD) due to genetic mutations can result in liver failure and chronic lung disease such as emphysema. Considered the prototypic serpin, the emphysema observed in patients with AATD, consisting of progressive destruction of the alveoli and small airway structures, formed the basis of the protease/anti-protease imbalance theory of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Over the past decade, however, investigations of AATD have described multiple functions of AAT beyond those generally attributed to its antiprotease activity. Evidence now suggests that AAT plays an important role in modulating immunity, inflammation, proteostasis, apoptosis, and possibly cellular senescence programs. When integrated in vivo, these processes contribute to the lung maintenance program which preserves the lung despite a constant bombardment by damage associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) and/or pathogenassociated molecular patterns (PAMPs) initiated by cigarette smoke, pollutants, or infections. In this review, we discuss the clinical aspects of AATD as they pertain to emphysema; including similarities and differences to cigarette smoke-induced emphysema. Examining the lung maintenance program, we next consider the multiple mechanisms of airspace destruction and explore the role AATD contributes. Finally, we consider the data regarding treatment of AATD, including AAT supplementation and its current limitations, and suggest further avenues of research informed by the multiple functions of AAT.

The airway and alveolar surface is exposed daily to 8,000 L of air containing oxygen, particles, bacteria, allergens and pollutants, all of which have the potential to induce oxidative stress within cells. If one is also a cigarette smoker, then the exposure to reactive oxidants increases exponentially. More than any other tissue, the lung is at risk of undergoing oxidative changes in protein expression, structure and function. The oxidant burden of chronic cigarette smoke exposure can overwhelm the lung cells’ capacity to maintain proteostasis, a process of regulated protein synthesis, folding and turnover. Somewhat surprisingly, most chronic cigarette smokers do not develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), likely because cells initiate a highly effective unfolded protein response (UPR) in the presence of oxidant-derived endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress that allows cells to survive. The UPR initiates several signaling pathways that decrease protein translation, limit cell cycle progression, increase protein degradation and chaperone-mediated protein folding, and activate the transcription factor Nrf2 that induces antioxidant gene expression. Each of these actions decreases ER stress in a process of “healthy proteostasis”. If these responses are insufficient, apoptosis ensues. In this article, we review the mechanisms of healthy and dysfunctional proteostasis related to cigarette smoke exposure and COPD.

Genetic or environmentally-induced alterations in protein structure interfere with the correct folding, assembly and trafficking of proteins. In the lung the expression of misfolded proteins can induce a variety of pathogenetic effects. Cystic fibrosis (CF) and alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency are two major clinically relevant pulmonary disorders associated with protein misfolding. Both are genetic diseases the primary causes of which are expression of mutant alleles of the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) and SERPINA1, respectively. The most common and best studied mutant forms of CFTR and AAT are ΔF508 CFTR and the Glu342Lys mutant of AAT called ZAAT, respectively. Non-genetic mechanisms can also damage protein structure and induce protein misfolding in the lung. Cigarette-smoke contains oxidants and other factors that can modify a protein’s structure, and is one of the most significant environmental causes of protein damage within the lung. Herein we describe the mechanisms controlling the folding of wild type and mutant versions of CFTR and AAT proteins, and explore the consequences of cigarette-smoke-induced effects on the protein folding machinery in the lung.

Protein homeostasis (proteostasis) generates and maintains individual proteins in their folded and functional-competent states. The components of the cellular proteostasis machinery also dictate the functional lifetime of a protein by constantly regulating its conformation, concentration and subcellular location. The autosomal recessive disease cystic fibrosis (CF) is caused by a proteostasis-defect in CF transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR). The most common CF mutation leading to this proteostasis-defect is the deletion of a phenylalanine residue at position 508 (ΔF508) of the CFTR protein. This ΔF508-CFTR protein is prone to aberrant folding, increased ER-associated degradation, atypical intracellular trafficking and reduced stability at the apical membrane. This ΔF508-CF proteostasis-defect leads to an obstructive lung disease characterized by impaired ion transport in airway epithelial cells, mucus buildup in air space and chronic airway inflammation. We assess here whether correcting the underlying defect in ΔF508-CFTR protein processing using therapeutic proteostasis regulators can treat chronic CF lung disease. As a proof of concept, recent studies support that the selective modulation of mutant-CFTR proteostasis may offer promising therapies to reverse chronic CF lung disease.

Chronic airway inflammation characterizes several airway diseases, including cystic fibrosis (CF) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The altered airway milieu that results from the pathogenic processes in these disorders affects the airway epithelia, leading to an up-regulation of their innate defense. In human airway epithelia, luminal inflammatory stimuli induce an adaptation characterized by an expansion of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and its Ca2+ stores. This epithelial adaption mediates Ca2+-dependent “hyperinflammatory” responses, and recent studies have shown that activation of the unfolded protein response (UPR) by ER stress is involved in the process. The UPR is also known to be activated by cigarette smoke, the primary trigger for development of COPD. These studies illustrate the functional role of UPR pathways during airway inflammation and suggest that targeting the UPR may be a therapeutic strategy for obstructive airway diseases. This article reviews the link between airway epithelial inflammation and activation of the UPR, and discusses how UPR activation might be relevant for CF and COPD airways disease.

Cigarette smoke (CS) is a risk factor for the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Oxidative stress is an immediate result of CS exposure and has the ability to modify cellular proteins. The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is a compartment where early steps of synthesis and folding of membrane and secretory proteins takes place. Oxidative stress has been shown to interfere with protein folding in the ER and elicits the unfolded protein response (UPR). The UPR is a massive endoplasmic reticulum to the nucleus and the cellular kinase cascades signaling pathway. The UPR triggers a series of intracellular events that aim to help cells overcome the consequences of the stress or eliminate rogue cells by altering expression of genes involved in anti-oxidant defense, cell cycle progression, inflammation, and apoptosis. Recent data demonstrate that CS induces the UPR in vitro and in vivo. The timing of UPR induction in smokers and the mechanism of CS-induced UPR are areas of active investigation. The role of UPR in the protection of smoker’s lungs from CS-induced oxidative stress, and its contribution to CS-induced apoptosis and inflammation, is beginning to emerge. This review discusses recent data about UPR in COPD and summarizes findings on UPR that have potential relevance to COPD.