Cigarette smoke-induced changes to alveolar macrophage phenotype and function are improved by treatment with procysteine

Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2011 May;44(5):673-81. doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2009-0459OC. Epub 2010 Jul 1.


Defective efferocytosis may perpetuate inflammation in smokers with or without chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Macrophages may phenotypically polarize to classically activated M1 (proinflammatory; regulation of antigen presentation) or alternatively activated M2 (poor antigen presentation; improved efferocytosis) markers. In bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL)-derived macrophages from control subjects and smoker/ex-smoker COPD subjects, we investigated M1 markers (antigen-presenting major histocompatibility complex [MHC] Classes I and II), complement receptors (CRs), the high-affinity Fc receptor involved with immunoglobulin binding for phagocytosis (Fc-gamma receptor, FcγR1), M2 markers (dendritic cell-specific intercellular adhesion molecule-grabbing nonintegrin [DC-SIGN] and arginase), and macrophage function (efferocytosis and proinflammatory cytokine production in response to LPS). The availability of glutathione (GSH) in BAL was assessed, because GSH is essential for both M1 function and efferocytosis. We used a murine model to investigate macrophage phenotype/function further in response to cigarette smoke. In lung tissue (disaggregated) and BAL, we investigated CRs, the available GSH, arginase, and efferocytosis. We further investigated the therapeutic effects of an oral administration of a GSH precursor, cysteine l-2-oxothiazolidine-4-carboxylic acid (procysteine). Significantly decreased efferocytosis, available GSH, and M1 antigen-presenting molecules were evident in both COPD groups, with increased DC-SIGN and production of proinflammatory cytokines. Increased CR-3 was evident in the current-smoker COPD group. In smoke-exposed mice, we found decreased efferocytosis (BAL and tissue) and available GSH, and increased arginase, CR-3, and CR-4. Treatment with procysteine significantly increased GSH, efferocytosis (BAL: control group, 26.2%; smoke-exposed group, 17.66%; procysteine + smoke-exposed group, 27.8%; tissue: control group, 35.9%; smoke-exposed group, 21.6%; procysteine + smoke-exposed group, 34.5%), and decreased CR-4 in lung tissue. Macrophages in COPD are of a mixed phenotype and function. The increased efferocytosis and availability of GSH in response to procysteine indicates that this treatment may be useful as adjunct therapy for improving macrophage function in COPD and in susceptible smokers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Bronchoscopy / methods
  • Flow Cytometry / methods
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Interleukin-12 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-1beta / metabolism
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Macrophages, Alveolar / cytology*
  • Macrophages, Alveolar / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Phagocytosis
  • Phenotype
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive
  • Pyrrolidonecarboxylic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Thiazolidines / pharmacology*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism


  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Thiazolidines
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Interleukin-12
  • Pyrrolidonecarboxylic Acid
  • 2-oxothiazolidine-4-carboxylic acid