Mast cells reside at interfaces with the environment, including the mucosa of the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts. This localization exposes mast cells to inhaled, or ingested, environmental challenges. In the airways of smokers, resident immune cells will be in contact with the condensed components of cigarette smoke. Mast cells are of particular interest due to their ability to promote airway remodeling and mucus hypersecretion. Clinical data show increased levels of mast cell-secreted tryptase and increased numbers of degranulated mast cells in the lavage and bronchial tissue of smokers. Since mast cell-secreted proteinases (MCPTs), including tryptases, contribute to pathological airway remodeling, we investigated the relationship between mast cell proteinases and smoke exposure. We exposed a mast cell line to cigarette smoke condensate (CSC). We show that CSC exposure increases MCPT levels in mast cells using an assay for tryptase-type MCPT activity. We hypothesized that this increase in MCPT activity reflects a CSC-induced increase in the cytosolic pool of proteinase molecules, via stimulation of MCPT transcription. Transcript array data suggested that mRNA changes in response to CSC were limited in number and peaked after 3 h of CSC exposure. However, we noted marked transcriptional regulation of several MCPT genes. CSC-induced changes in the mRNA levels for MCPTs were confirmed using quantitative RT-PCR. Taken together, our data suggest that chronic exposure to cigarette smoke up-regulates MCPT levels in mast cells at both the protein and the mRNA level. We suggest that the pathological airway remodeling that has been described in clinical studies of smoke inhalation may be attributable to MCPT overproduction in vivo. © 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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