Ethanol upregulates glucocorticoid-induced leucine zipper expression and modulates cellular inflammatory responses in lung epithelial cells

J Immunol. 2010 May 15;184(10):5715-22. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0903521. Epub 2010 Apr 9.


Alcohol abuse is associated with immunosuppressive and infectious sequelae. Particularly, alcoholics are more susceptible to pulmonary infections. In this report, gene transcriptional profiles of primary human airway epithelial cells exposed to varying doses of alcohol (0, 50, and 100 mM) were obtained. Comparison of gene transcription levels in 0 mM alcohol treatments with those in 50 mM alcohol treatments resulted in 2 genes being upregulated and 16 genes downregulated by at least 2-fold. Moreover, 0 mM and 100 mM alcohol exposure led to the upregulation of 14 genes and downregulation of 157 genes. Among the upregulated genes, glucocorticoid-induced leucine zipper (GILZ) responded to alcohol in a dose-dependent manner. Moreover, GILZ protein levels also correlated with this transcriptional pattern. Lentiviral expression of GILZ small interfering RNA in human airway epithelial cells diminished the alcohol-induced upregulation, confirming that GILZ is indeed an alcohol-responsive gene. Gene silencing of GILZ in A549 cells resulted in secretion of significantly higher amounts of inflammatory cytokines in response to IL-1beta stimulation. The GILZ-silenced cells were more resistant to alcohol-mediated suppression of cytokine secretion. Further data demonstrated that the glucocorticoid receptor is involved in the regulation of GILZ by alcohol. Because GILZ is a key glucocorticoid-responsive factor mediating the anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive actions of steroids, we propose that similar signaling pathways may play a role in the anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive effects of alcohol.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Silencing / drug effects
  • Gene Silencing / immunology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Inflammation Mediators / pharmacology*
  • Lung / cytology
  • Lung / drug effects*
  • Lung / immunology
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Respiratory Mucosa / cytology
  • Respiratory Mucosa / drug effects*
  • Respiratory Mucosa / immunology
  • Transcription Factors / biosynthesis*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription, Genetic / drug effects
  • Up-Regulation / drug effects*
  • Up-Regulation / genetics
  • Up-Regulation / immunology


  • Cytokines
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • TSC22D3 protein, human
  • Transcription Factors
  • Ethanol