Impact of acute exposure to cigarette smoke on airway gene expression

Physiol Genomics. 2018 Sep 1;50(9):705-713. doi: 10.1152/physiolgenomics.00092.2017. Epub 2018 Jun 22.


Background: Understanding effects of acute smoke exposure (ASE) on airway epithelial gene expression and their relationship with the effects of chronic smoke exposure may provide biological insights into the development of smoking-related respiratory diseases.

Methods: Bronchial airway epithelial cell brushings were collected from 63 individuals without recent cigarette smoke exposure and before and 24 h after smoking three cigarettes. RNA from these samples was profiled on Affymetrix Human Gene 1.0 ST microarrays.

Results: We identified 91 genes differentially expressed 24 h after ASE (false discovery rate < 0.25). ASE induced genes involved in xenobiotic metabolism, oxidative stress, and inflammation and repressed genes related to cilium morphogenesis and cell cycle. While many genes altered by ASE are altered similarly in chronic smokers, metallothionein genes are induced by ASE and suppressed in chronic smokers. Metallothioneins are also suppressed in current and former smokers with lung cancer relative to those without lung cancer.

Conclusions: Acute exposure to as little as three cigarettes and chronic smoking induce largely concordant changes in airway epithelial gene expression. Differences in short-term and long-term effects of smoking on metallothionein expression and their relationship to lung cancer requires further study given these enzymes' role in the oxidative stress response.

Keywords: airway; cigarettes; epithelial cells; gene expression; smoking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bronchi / metabolism*
  • Bronchi / pathology*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metallothionein / metabolism
  • Middle Aged
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Smoking Cessation
  • Young Adult


  • Metallothionein