The impact of cigarette smoke exposure, COPD, or asthma status on ABC transporter gene expression in human airway epithelial cells

Sci Rep. 2019 Jan 17;9(1):153. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-36248-9.


ABC transporters are conserved in prokaryotes and eukaryotes, with humans expressing 48 transporters divided into 7 classes (ABCA, ABCB, ABCC, ABCD, ABDE, ABCF, and ABCG). Throughout the human body, ABC transporters regulate cAMP levels, chloride secretion, lipid transport, and anti-oxidant responses. We used a bioinformatic approach complemented with in vitro experimental methods for validation of the 48 known human ABC transporters in airway epithelial cells using bronchial epithelial cell gene expression datasets available in NCBI GEO from well-characterized patient populations of healthy subjects and individuals that smoke cigarettes, or have been diagnosed with COPD or asthma, with validation performed in Calu-3 airway epithelial cells. Gene expression data demonstrate that ABC transporters are variably expressed in epithelial cells from different airway generations, regulated by cigarette smoke exposure (ABCA13, ABCB6, ABCC1, and ABCC3), and differentially expressed in individuals with COPD and asthma (ABCA13, ABCC1, ABCC2, ABCC9). An in vitro cell culture model of cigarette smoke exposure was able to recapitulate select observed in situ changes. Our work highlights select ABC transporter candidates of interest and a relevant in vitro model that will enable a deeper understanding of the contribution of ABC transporters in the respiratory mucosa in lung health and disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / metabolism*
  • Asthma / complications*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Computational Biology
  • Datasets as Topic
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Epithelial Cells / pathology
  • Gene Expression / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Multidrug Resistance-Associated Protein 2
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / complications*
  • Respiratory System / metabolism
  • Respiratory System / pathology
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects*


  • ABCC2 protein, human
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters
  • Multidrug Resistance-Associated Protein 2
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution

Grant support