Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Cellular, Molecular and Biomedical Sciences

First Advisor

Yvonne Janssen-Heininger


Nuclear Factor kappaB (NF-êB) is a transcription factor whose activation is increased in settings of allergic asthma. At least two parallel NF-êB pathways exist: the classical pathway, which plays a role in inflammation and cell survival, and the alternative pathway, which regulates lymphoid cell development and organogenesis. The classical NF-êB pathway regulates inflammatory responses derived from lung epithelial cells; however, the role of the alternative pathway in lung epithelial cells remains unclear. We demonstrate that both classical and alternative NF-êB are activated in lung epithelial cells in response to multiple pro-inflammatory agonists, and siRNA-mediated knockdown of alternative NF-êB proteins largely attenuates pro-inflammatory cytokine production. Furthermore, simultaneous activation of both pathways leads to cooperative increases in pro-inflammatory responses, indicating a potential role for both classical and alternative NF-êB in the regulation of epithelial-derived pro-inflammatory responses.

NF-êB activation in the epithelium modulates allergic inflammation in mouse models of allergic airway disease, however, its role in the context of an allergen relevant to human asthma remains unknown. In order to address the impact of inhibition of NF-êB in the epithelium in vivo, we utilized a House Dust Mite (HDM)-induced model of allergic airway disease. We demonstrate that HDM exposure activates classical and alternative NF-êB in both murine lung epithelium and human bronchial epithelial cells. Furthermore, following exposure to HDM, airway hyperresponsiveness, neutrophilic inflammation, and remodeling are attenuated in transgenic CC10-NF-êBSR (airway epithelial specific inhibitor of classical and alternative NF-êB) mice in comparison to wild type mice. Our data also demonstrate that specific knockdown of the alternative NF-êB protein, RelB, in the lung partially protects against HDM-induced pro-inflammatory responses, indicating that both classical and alternative NF-êB are important in HDM-induced responses.

NF-êB proteins are modified by the redox-dependent post-translational modification, S-glutathionylation, under conditions of oxidative stress. S-glutathionylation of IKKâ, an upstream kinase in the NF-êB pathway, is known to decrease its catalytic activity; however, it is unknown how S-glutathionylation of IKKâ occurs. GSTP is an enzyme that catalyzes protein S-glutathionylation under conditions of oxidative stress and has been associated with the development of allergic asthma. We aimed to determine whether GSTP regulates NF-êB signaling, S-glutathionylation of IKKâ, and pro-inflammatory cytokine production. We demonstrate that siRNA-mediated knockdown of GSTP modulates NF-êB activation, NF-êB transcriptional activity, and pro-inflammatory cytokine production in response to LPS, a component of a bacterial cell wall. Furthermore, we demonstrate that GSTP associates with IKKâ in response to agonist stimulation and dampens IKKâ-induced pro-inflammatory cytokine production, surprisingly, independent of its catalytic activity. We also show that GSTP associates with other proteins of the NF-êB pathway, indicating a potential dual mechanism for repression of NF-êB-induced signaling. These studies collectively demonstrate that classical and alternative NF-êB contribute to epithelial-derived inflammatory responses, and GSTP may be a novel target by which NF-êB can be regulated.



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