Cigarette Smoke Extract Disturbs Mitochondria-Regulated Airway Epithelial Cell Responses to Pneumococci

Mahyar Aghapour, Christy B M Tulen, Mohsen Abdi Sarabi, Sönke Weinert, Mathias Müsken, Borna Relja, Frederik-Jan van Schooten, Andreas Jeron, Rüdiger Braun-Dullaeus*, Alexander H Remels, Dunja Bruder*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Mitochondrial functionality is crucial for the execution of physiologic functions of metabolically active cells in the respiratory tract including airway epithelial cells (AECs). Cigarette smoke is known to impair mitochondrial function in AECs. However, the potential contribution of mitochondrial dysfunction in AECs to airway infection and airway epithelial barrier dysfunction is unknown. In this study, we used an in vitro model based on AECs exposed to cigarette smoke extract (CSE) followed by an infection with Streptococcus pneumoniae (Sp). The levels of oxidative stress as an indicator of mitochondrial stress were quantified upon CSE and Sp treatment. In addition, expression of proteins associated with mitophagy, mitochondrial content, and biogenesis as well as mitochondrial fission and fusion was quantified. Transcriptional AEC profiling was performed to identify the potential changes in innate immune pathways and correlate them with indices of mitochondrial function. We observed that CSE exposure substantially altered mitochondrial function in AECs by suppressing mitochondrial complex protein levels, reducing mitochondrial membrane potential and increasing mitochondrial stress and mitophagy. Moreover, CSE-induced mitochondrial dysfunction correlated with reduced enrichment of genes involved in apical junctions and innate immune responses to Sp, particularly type I interferon responses. Together, our results demonstrated that CSE-induced mitochondrial dysfunction may contribute to impaired innate immune responses to Sp.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1771
Number of pages27
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2022


  • AMPK
  • NLRX1
  • cigarette smokes extract
  • lung epithelial cells
  • mitochondrial dysfunction
  • pneumococcal infection

Cite this