Parental smoking is known to worsen asthma symptoms in children and to make them refractory to asthma treatment, but the molecular mechanism is unclear. Oxidative stress from tobacco smoke has been reported to impair histone deacetylase-2 (HDAC2) via phosphoinositide-3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt activation and, thus, to reduce corticosteroid sensitivity. The aim of this study was to investigate passive smoking-dependent molecular abnormalities in alveolar macrophages (AMs) by comparing passive smoke-exposed children and non-passive smoke-exposed children with uncontrolled severe asthma.
BAL fluid (BALF) was obtained from 19 children with uncontrolled severe asthma (10 non-passive smoking-exposed subjects and nine passive smoking-exposed subjects), and HDAC2 expression/activity, Akt/HDAC2 phosphorylation levels, and corticosteroid responsiveness in AMs were evaluated.
Parental smoking reduced HDAC2 protein expression by 54% and activity by 47%, with concomitant enhancement of phosphorylation of Akt1 and HDAC2. In addition, phosphorylation levels of Akt1 correlated positively with HDAC2 phosphorylation levels and negatively with HDAC2 activity. Furthermore, passive smoke exposure reduced the inhibitory effects of dexamethasone on tumor necrosis factor-α-induced CXCL8 release in AMs. There were relatively higher neutrophil counts and CXCL8 concentrations in BALF and lower Asthma Control Test scores compared with non-passive smoke-exposed children with uncontrolled severe asthma.
Passive smoking impairs HDAC2 function via PI3K signaling activation, which could contribute to corticosteroid-insensitive inflammation in children with severe asthma. This novel mechanism will be a treatment target in children with severe asthma and stresses the need for a smoke-free environment for asthmatic children.