Tobacco smoke exposure is the cause of exaggerated inflammatory responses and tissue destruction leading to chronic bronchitis and emphysema. A number of studies have used biochemical and immunological technologies to identify biomarkers of severity, risk and pharmacological target of disease. Recently, genomic and proteomic studies have been carried out to explore tobacco smoke-induced lung damage mechanisms. Eight of these studies, including 81 healthy non-smokers, 138 healthy smokers and 24 smokers with COPD, had open platform generated data available online and were reviewed in order to identify markers of smoke-induced damage by analyzing differential gene and protein expression in healthy individuals exposed to tobacco smoke in comparison with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) smokers and healthy non-smokers. To this end the Ingenuity Pathways Analysis, a web-based application enables identifying the main biological functions and pathways, was used. The pathway most significantly associated with healthy smokers was the Nrf2-mediated Oxidative Stress Response (p-value < 0.01): out of the 22 genes/proteins identified in healthy smokers, 19 were up-regulated and three down-regulated, compared to non-smokers. Interestingly, four genes/proteins of the same pathway were differentially regulated in COPD, one up-regulated and three down-regulated, compared to healthy smokers. Moreover, in the comparison between COPD and healthy smokers, our analysis showed that the most relevant pathway was the Mitochondrial Dysfunction (p-value < 0.01) with 12 differentially regulated genes/proteins. This data-mining review supports the notion that Nrf2-regulated anti-oxidant genes play a central role in protection against tobacco smoke toxic effects and may be amenable to use as COPD risk biomarkers. Furthermore, this review suggests that mitochondrial dysfunction may be involved in the development of COPD.
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