Regulation of ACE-2 enzyme by hyperoxia in lung epithelial cells by post-translational modification

J Lung Pulm Respir Res. 2021:8:47-52. Epub 2021 May 6.


Background: Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia (BPD) occurs in premature neonates with respiratory distress who require supplemental oxygen in the first days after birth. BPD involves uniform arrest of alveolar development and variable interstitial cellularity and/or fibroproliferation. Previous studies by our lab showed that the enzyme, angiotensin converting enzyme-2 (ACE-2) and its product Ang1-7 exerting action on the receptor Mas oncogene in what is known as ACE-2/Mas axis is protective to lung cells. We also showed that ACE-2 is expressed in fetal human lung fibroblasts but is significantly decreased by hyperoxic gas lung injury, an effect caused by ACE-2 enzyme shedding mediated by TNF-alpha-converting enzyme (TACE/ADAM17). However, no reports yet exist about the regulation of ACE-2 in the alveolar epithelia in hyperoxic lung injury.

Objective: In this study we aim to define the effects of hyperoxic lung injury on the protective ACE-2 enzyme in the human lung alveolar epithelial cell line A549.

Design/methods: Cultured A549 cells were exposed to hyperoxia (95% O2) or normoxia (21% O2) for 3 or 7 days in serum-free nutrient media. Cells were lysed and culture media were collected to test for cellular ACE-2 enzymatic activity and for ACE-2, Mas receptor, TACE/ADAM17, and ubiquitin proteins abundance by immunoblotting. Cells were harvested in Trizol for RNA extraction and ACE-2 qRT-PCR. Whole cell extracts of A549 cell line was used for ACE-2 immunoprecipitation and subsequent ubiquitin immunoblotting.

Results: Total ubiquitinated proteins were increased by hyperoxia treatment, while ACE-2 and Mas receptor proteins abundance and ACE-2 enzymatic activity were decreased significantly in A549 cells exposed to hyperoxia relative to the normoxia controls. The percent decrease in ACE-2 activity corresponded with increased time of hyperoxic gas exposure. However, in contrast to our data from lung fibroblasts, no significant change was noted in ACE-2 protein released into the media or in ACE-2 mRNA levels by the hyperoxic treatment. Ubiquitin immunoreactive bands were detectable in the ACE-2 immunoprecipitate.

Conclusions: These data suggest that hyperoxic exposure of the lung epithelial cells decreases the protective enzyme ACE-2 by cell type specific mechanisms independent of shedding by TACE/ADAM17. The data also suggest a regulatory level of ACE-2 downstream of transcription may involve ACE-2 ubiquitination and targeting for degradation.

Keywords: angiotensin converting enzyme-2 (ACE-2); bronchopulmonary dysplasia; hyperoxia; renin angiotensin system; ubiquitin proteasome system.