Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Yvonne M. Janssen-Heininger


Asthma is a multi-faceted chronic inflammatory disease accompanied by loss of airway epithelial integrity leading to remodeling of the airways. Perturbations to the lung redox environment, including alterations in glutathione (GSH) content, have been reported in asthma. GSH can be conjugated to protein cysteines, controlling protein function in an oxidant-dependent process known as protein S-glutathionylation (PSSG). The thioltransferase, glutaredoxin-1 (Glrx1), deglutathionylates proteins under physiological conditions, restoring sulfhydryl groups of target proteins. Glrx1 is emerging as a critical player in settings of allergic airway disease, but its function in regulating epithelial cell responses to asthma-relevant cytokines has not been examined. Furthermore, the role of Glrx1 in controlling the extent of airway remodeling in response to house dust mite (HDM) in vivo is still not well understood.

Interleukin-17A (IL-17A) is a potent cytokine that stimulates epithelial cells to produce pro-inflammatory mediators, in part by activating the nuclear factor kappaB (NF-κB) pathway, a key regulator of inflammation. We demonstrate that interleukin-17A (IL-17A) induces rapid activation of both classical and alternative NF-κB, while simultaneously resulting in protein oxidation and PSSG. In particular, we show IL 17A induces S-glutathionylation of RelA (RelA-SSG) and IKKα (IKKα-SSG), which is enhanced following siRNA-mediated knockdown of Glrx1. We also demonstrate that absence of Glrx1 leads to increased nuclear content of RelA and RelB and enhanced production of NF-κB-driven pro-inflammatory genes, KC and CCL20 while decreasing IL-6 expression. Finally, we show that siRNA-mediated knockdown of IKKα attenuates nuclear RelA and RelB and dampens pro-inflammatory gene production. Together, these data indicate a crucial role for the Glrx1/PSSG axis in controlling RelA-SSG, IKKα-SSG and epithelial cell responsiveness to IL-17A.

Mice lacking Glrx1 were previously shown to display enhanced resolution of allergic airway disease induced by ovalbumin (Ova) challenge. In this study, we determined the role of Glrx1 in a HDM model of allergic airway disease. Wild type (WT) mice and Glrx1 deficient (Glrx1-/-) mice demonstrated similar total lung cell counts, but Glrx1-/- mice displayed fewer neutrophils than WT mice. Conversely, mice overexpressing Glrx1 specifically in CCSP positive cells in the lung (Epi-Glrx1) showed attenuated total lung cell counts and lung eosinophils compared to control mice. Immunohistological analysis of remodeling markers revealed that Glrx1-/- mice displayed increased HDM-induced mucus metaplasia, α smooth muscle actin (αSMA) positivity and collagen staining compared to WT mice. Evaluation of total lung collagen showed that Glrx1-/- mice had significantly higher collagen content compared to WT mice. In Epi-Glrx1 mice, attenuation of mucus metaplasia, αSMA content and collagen staining was observed compared to control mice. Furthermore, Epi-Glrx1 mice also demonstrated significantly impaired collagen production compared to control mice. We also demonstrate that Glrx1 absence results in decreased expression of the epithelial cell marker, E-cadherin, and increased expression of αSMA, a mesenchymal marker. Together, these studies demonstrate a critical role for Glrx1 in controlling epithelial cell responses to IL-17A and in mediating in vivo collagen production in response to chronic allergen exposure.



Number of Pages

178 p.