Nrf2 regulates chronic lung inflammation and B-cell responses to nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae

Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2011 Sep;45(3):557-65. doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2010-0321OC. Epub 2011 Jan 7.


Nrf2 is a leucine zipper transcription factor that protects against oxidant-induced injury. Nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae is responsible for frequent disease exacerbations in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and is responsible for causing otitis media in young children. We hypothesized that Nrf2 would limit inflammatory responses to nontypeable H. influenzae. The objective of this study was to assess the role of Nrf2 in chronic lung inflammation and regulation of immune responses to nontypeable H. influenzae in mice. Wild-type (C57BL/6) mice and Nrf2(-/-) mice were instilled by oropharyngeal aspiration of 1 × 10(6) colony-forming units of live, nontypeable H. influenzae (NTHI) twice a week for 4 to 16 consecutive weeks to generate a chronic inflammatory milieu within the lungs that models chronic bronchitis. Nrf2(-/-) mice had increased lymphocytic airway inflammation compared with WT mice after NTHI challenge. Although the extent of NTHI-induced peribronchovascular inflammation did not significantly differ between the genotypes, plasma cell infiltration was significantly more abundant in Nrf2(-/-) mice. Most strikingly, Nrf2(-/-) mice generated significantly enhanced and persistent levels of serum antibodies against P6, a key outer membrane protein of NTHI. Lung dendritic cells from Nrf2(-/-) mice challenged with NTHI had increased activation markers compared with dendritic cells from similarly treated WT mice. Nrf2 regulates NTHI-induced airway inflammation characterized by lymphocytic and plasma cell infiltration and the activation of lung dendritic cells and B-cell responses in mice. Nrf2 may be a potential therapeutic target in limiting the bacterial infection-induced airway inflammation that drives exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • B-Lymphocytes / cytology*
  • B-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Bronchitis / pathology
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage
  • Dendritic Cells / cytology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Haemophilus influenzae / metabolism*
  • Immune System
  • Inflammation
  • Lung / immunology
  • Lung / pathology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Models, Biological
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2 / metabolism*


  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2
  • Nfe2l2 protein, mouse