Acute cigarette smoke exposure leads to higher viral infection in human bronchial epithelial cultures by altering interferon, glycolysis and GDF15-related pathways

Ying Wang, Dennis K. Ninaber, Alen Faiz, Abraham C. van der Linden, Annemarie van Schadewijk, René Lutter, Pieter S. Hiemstra, Anne M. van der Does, Abilash Ravi

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    Background: Acute exacerbations of chronic inflammatory lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), are frequently associated with rhinovirus (RV) infections. Despite these associations, the pathogenesis of virus-induced exacerbations is incompletely understood. We aimed to investigate effects of cigarette smoke (CS), a primary risk factor for COPD, on RV infection in airway epithelium and identify novel mechanisms related to these effects. Methods: Primary bronchial epithelial cells (PBEC) from COPD patients and controls were differentiated by culture at the air–liquid interface (ALI) and exposed to CS and RV-A16. Bulk RNA sequencing was performed using samples collected at 6 and 24 h post infection (hpi), and viral load, mediator and l-lactate levels were measured at 6, 24 and 48hpi. To further delineate the effect of CS on RV-A16 infection, we performed growth differentiation factor 15 (GDF15) knockdown, l-lactate and interferon pre-treatment in ALI-PBEC. We performed deconvolution analysis to predict changes in the cell composition of ALI-PBEC after the various exposures. Finally, we compared transcriptional responses of ALI-PBEC to those in nasal epithelium after human RV-A16 challenge. Results: CS exposure impaired antiviral responses at 6hpi and increased viral replication at 24 and 48hpi in ALI-PBEC. At 24hpi, CS exposure enhanced expression of RV-A16-induced epithelial interferons, inflammation-related genes and CXCL8. CS exposure increased expression of oxidative stress-related genes, of GDF15, and decreased mitochondrial membrane potential. GDF15 knockdown experiments suggested involvement of this pathway in the CS-induced increase in viral replication. Expression of glycolysis-related genes and l-lactate production were increased by CS exposure, and was demonstrated to contribute to higher viral replication. No major differences were demonstrated between COPD and non-COPD-derived cultures. However, cellular deconvolution analysis predicted higher secretory cells in COPD-derived cultures at baseline. Conclusion: Altogether, our findings demonstrate that CS exposure leads to higher viral infection in human bronchial epithelium by altering not only interferon responses, but likely also through a switch to glycolysis, and via GDF15-related pathways.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number207
    JournalRespiratory research
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2023


    • Bronchial epithelium
    • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
    • Cigarette smoke
    • RNA-Seq
    • Rhinovirus infection

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