Effect of induced airway inflammation in asthma : the expression of trefoil factors, secretoglobins and genes involved in histone acetylation

Hadaway, Matthew (2012) Effect of induced airway inflammation in asthma : the expression of trefoil factors, secretoglobins and genes involved in histone acetylation. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Asthma is an incapacitating disease of the respiratory system, which causes extensive morbidity and mortality worldwide. Asthma affects more than 300 million people globally(Masoli et al. 2004). In Australia, it affects 10.2% of the population (Masoli et al. 2004) and causes 60,000 people to be hospitalised annually. Health care expenditure due to asthma in Australia was $606 million in 2004–2005. There are four primary biological factors that function in the initiation and exacerbation of asthma. Airway inflammation is important as it is often the first response to an airway insult, initiating the three other components: bronchoconstriction, mucus hyper-secretion and hyper-reactivity. The mediators involved in asthma are still not well understood, and current anti-inflammatory corticosteroid treatments are not effective with all asthmatics. As there is currently no cure for asthma, and airway inflammation is the primary component of the disease, it is important that we understand and investigate the mediators of airway inflammation to look for a potential cure and to produce better therapeutics to treat the inflammation.

Trefoil factors (TFFs) and secretoglobins (SCGBs) are small secreted proteins involved in the mediation of inflammation and epithelial restitution. TFFs are pro-inflammatory and SCGBs anti-inflammatory by nature. The hypothesis of this study is that in response to induced acute airway inflammation, the expression of TFF1 and TFF3 will increase and expression of SCGB1A1 and SCGB3A2 will decrease in non-asthmatics (N-A), asthmatics medicating with bronchodilators (A-BD) and asthmatics medicating with corticosteroids (A-ST). When comparing the three groups, we expect to see higher expression of the TFFs in the A-BD group compared to the N-A and A-ST groups, indicating that inflammation is mediated by TFFs in asthma and that corticosteroid medication controls their expression as part of the control of inflammation. We expect to see the opposite with SCGBs, with a greater decrease in the A-BD group compared to the other two groups, suggesting that the A-BD group has the least anti-inflammatory activity in response to inflammatory insult.

Epigenetic modification plays a role in the regulation of genes that initiate disease states such as inflammatory conditions and cancers. Histone acetylation is one such modification, which involves the acetylation of histones in chromatin by histone acetyltransferases (HATs). This increases the transcription of genes involved with inflammation or enrols histone deacetylases (HDACs) to down-regulate the transcription of inflammatory genes. These HATs and HDACs work in a homeostatic fashion; however, in the event of inflammation, increased HAT activity can stimulate further inflammation, which is believed to be the mechanism involved in some inflammatory diseases. This study hypothesises that in response to inflammation, the expression of HDACs (HDAC1-5) will decrease and the expression of HATs (NCOA1-3, HAT-1 and CREBBP) will increase in all groups. When comparing the expression between the groups, it was expected that a greater decrease in HDACs and a greater increase in HATs will be seen in the A-BD group compared to the other two groups. This would identify histone acetylation as a mechanism involved in the inflammatory condition of asthma and indicate that corticosteroids may treat the inflammation in asthma at least in part by controlling histone acetylation.

The aim of the project was to compare the expression of inflammatory genes TFF1, TFF3, SCGB1A1 and SCGB3A2, as well as to compare the gene expression of HDAC1-5, NCOA1-3, HAT-1 and CREBBP within and between N-A (n=15), A-BD (n=15) and A-ST (n=15) groups in response to inflammation. This was performed by collecting airway cells and proteins by sputum induction in three sessions. The sessions were coordinated into an initial baseline collection (SI-1), followed by a second session at least one week later (SI-2) and a third session, six hours after SI-2 to collect a sample containing the resultant acute inflammation caused in SI-2 (SI-3). Analysis of the SI-1 and SI-2 samples in all three groups had high amounts of variability between samples. The samples were taken at least one weak apart and the environmental stimuli on each participant outside of the testing sessions could not be controlled. For this reason, the SI-1 samples were not used for analysis; instead SI-2 and SI-3 samples were compared as they were same-day collections, reducing the probability of differences being due to anything other than the sputum induction.

The gene expressions of the TFFs, SCGBs, HDACs and HATs were analysed using real-time PCR. Western blot analysis was performed to analyse the protein concentrations of the TFFs and SCGBs in secreted fractions of the sputum collection. Both the secreted and intracellular protein fractions collected from the sputum inductions for pre- and post-inflammation (SI-2, SI-3) samples of the N-A and A-BD groups were analysed using a proteomic method called iTRAQ. This allowed the comparison of the change in protein expression as a result of airway inflammation in each group. This technique was used as a discovery method to identify novel proteins that are modulated by induced acute airway inflammation. Any proteins of interest would then be further validated and used for future research.

Inflammation was achieved in the SI-3 samples of the N-A group with a 21% unit increase in % neutrophils compared to SI-2 (p=0.01). The N-A group had a marked 5.5-fold decrease in HDAC1 gene expression in SI-3 compared to SI-2 (p=0.03). No differences were seen in any of the TFFs, SCGBs or any of the rest of the HDACs and HATs. Western blot data did not display any significant changes in the protein levels of the TFFs and SCGBs analysed. However, non-significant analysis of the data displayed increases in TFF1 and TFF3, and decreases in SCGB1A1 and SCGB3A2 for the majority of SI-3 samples compared to SI-2.

The A-BD group also presented a marked increase in neutrophils in the SI-3 samples compared to SI-2 (27% unit increase, p=0.04). The A-BD group had a significant increase in TFF3 and SCGB1A1 gene expression concomitant with induced acute airway inflammation. A 7.3-fold increase in TFF3 (p=0.05) in SI-3 indicated that TFF3 is linked to inflammation in asthmatics. A 2.8-fold increase in SCGB1A1 (p=0.03) indicated that this gene is also up-regulated, suggesting that this SCGB is expressed to try to combat induced acute airway inflammation. No significant changes were seen in any of the other genes analysed. Western blot data did not display any significant changes in the protein levels of the TFFs and SCGBs analysed. However, non-significant analysis of the data displayed an increase in TFF1 and TFF3, and a decrease in SCGB1A1 and SCGB3A2 in SI-3, similar to that seen in the N-A group.

The A-ST group was different from the A-BD group, characterised by the use of inhaled corticosteroid medication to treat asthma symptoms. Inhaled corticosteroids are known to treat asthma symptoms through the control of inflammation. Therefore, it was expected that corticosteroid medication would also control the expression of TFFs, SCGBs, HATs and HDACs. Gene expression results only identified a 7.6-fold decrease in HDAC2 expression in SI-3 (p=0.001), which is proposed to be due to the up-regulation of HDAC2 protein that is known to be a function of corticosteroid use. Western blot data did not display any significant changes in the protein levels of the TFFs and SCGBs analysed.

The gene expression in SI-2 and SI-3 in each group was compared. When comparing the A-BD group to the N-A group, a 9-fold increase in TFF3 (p=0.008) and a 34-fold increase in SCGB1A1 (p=0.03) were seen in the SI-3 samples. Comparisons of the A-ST group to the N-A group had an increased expression in SI-2 samples for HDAC5 (3.6-fold, p=0.04), NCOA2 (8.5-fold, p=0.04), NCOA3 (17-fold, p=0.01), HAT-1 (36-fold, p=0.003) and CREBBP (13-fold, p=0.001). The SI-3 samples in the A-ST group compared to the N-A group had increased expression for HDAC1 (6.4-fold, p=0.04), HDAC5 (5.2-fold, p=0.008), NCOA2 (9.6-fold, p=0.03), NCOA3 (16-fold, p=0.06), HAT-1 (41-fold, p<0.001) and CREBBP (31-fold, p=0.001). Comparisons of the A-ST group to the A-BD group had SI-2 increases in HDAC1 (3.8-fold, p=0.03), NCOA3 (4.5-fold, p=0.03), HAT-1 (5.3-fold, p=0.01) and CREBBP (23-fold, p=0.001), while SI-3 comparisons saw a decrease in HDAC2 (41-fold, p=0.008) and increases in HAT-1 (4.3-fold, p=0.003) and CREBBP (40-fold, p=0.001). Results showed that TFF3 and SCGB1A1 expression is higher in asthmatics than non-asthmatics and that histone acetylation is more active in the A-ST group than either the N-A or A-BD group, which suggests that histone acetylation activity may be positively correlated with asthma severity.

The iTRAQ proteomic analysis of the secreted protein samples identified the SCGB1A1 protein and found it to be decreased in both the N-A and A-BD groups post-inflammation, but significantly so only in the A-BD group. Although no significant results were obtained from the western blot data, both groups displayed a decrease in SCGB1A1 concentration in SI-3 samples, suggesting a correlation with the proteomic data. Only 31 peptides were identified from the secreted samples. The intracellular iTRAQ analysis successfully identified 664 peptides, eight of which had differential expression in association with induced acute airway inflammation. Significant increases were seen in the A-BD group in SI-3 compared to SI-2 than in the N-A group in chloride intracellular channel protein 1, keratin-19, eosinophil cationic protein, calnexin, peroxiredoxin-5, and ATP-synthase delta subunit, while decreases were seen in cystatin-A and mucin-5AC. The iTRAQ analysis was only a discovery measure and further validation must be performed.

In summary, the expression of TFFs and SCGBs differed between non-asthmatics and asthmatics. It is clear that TFF3 is active in the airway inflammation associated with asthma as indicated by an increase associated with inflammation in the A-BD group compared to the N-A group. Results for HDAC and HAT genes showed high HAT expression in the A-ST group compared to the N-A and A-BD groups, suggesting that histone acetyltransferases may be responsible for the characteristic unregulated inflammatory symptoms of asthmatics taking corticosteroids. Interestingly, corticosteroid medication did not seem to silence the expression of the analysed HAT genes, which indicates that corticosteroids may not control inflammation by direct regulation of HATs, but instead by competition, most probably with HDAC2 protein. As a discovery tool, iTRAQ is a potent method to both identify and compare the concentration of proteins between samples. The method is a powerful first step into the identification of novel proteins that are regulated in response to different treatments.

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ID Code: 62168
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Solomon, Colin & Beagley, Kenneth
Keywords: airway inflammation, asthma, bronchodilator, corticosteroid, trefoil factor, secretoglobin, histone acetylation
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 28 Aug 2013 05:33
Last Modified: 02 Sep 2015 23:40

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