Glutathione S-transferases and their implications in the lung diseases asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: Early life susceptibility?

Cheryl van de Wetering, Evan Elko, Marijn Berg, Caspar H. J. Schiffers, Vasili Stylianidis, Maarten van den Berge, Martijn C. Nawijn, Emiel F. M. Wouters, Yvonne M. W. Janssen-Heininger*, Niki L. Reynaert*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Our lungs are exposed daily to airborne pollutants, particulate matter, pathogens as well as lung allergens and irritants. Exposure to these substances can lead to inflammatory responses and may induce endogenous oxidant production, which can cause chronic inflammation, tissue damage and remodeling. Notably, the development of asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is linked to the aforementioned irritants. Some inhaled foreign chemical compounds are rapidly absorbed and processed by phase I and II enzyme systems critical in the detoxification of xenobiotics including the glutathione-conjugating enzymes Glutathione S-transferases (GSTs). GSTs, and in particular genetic variants of GSTs that alter their activities, have been found to be implicated in the susceptibility to and progression of these lung diseases. Beyond their roles in phase II metabolism, evidence suggests that GSTs are also important mediators of normal lung growth. Therefore, the contribution of GSTs to the development of lung diseases in adults may already start in utero, and continues through infancy, childhood, and adult life. GSTs are also known to scavenge oxidants and affect signaling pathways by protein-protein interaction. Moreover, GSTs regulate reversible oxidative post-translational modifications of proteins, known as protein S-glutathionylation. Therefore, GSTs display an array of functions that impact the pathogenesis of asthma and COPD. In this review we will provide an overview of the specific functions of each class of mammalian cytosolic GSTs. This is followed by a comprehensive analysis of their expression profiles in the lung in healthy subjects, as well as alterations that have been described in (epithelial cells of) asthmatics and COPD patients. Particular emphasis is placed on the emerging evidence of the regulatory properties of GSTs beyond detoxification and their contribution to (un)healthy lungs throughout life. By providing a more thorough understanding, tailored therapeutic strategies can be designed to affect specific functions of particular GSTs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101995
Number of pages23
JournalRedox Biology
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • Glutathione S-Transferases
  • Protein S-Glutathionylation
  • COPD
  • Asthma
  • RNA sequencing

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