Short-term intermittent cigarette smoke exposure enhances alveolar type 2 cell stemness via fatty acid oxidation

Hidehiro Irie, Mari Ozaki, Shotaro Chubachi, Ahmed E. Hegab, Akihiro Tsutsumi, Naofumi Kameyama, Kaori Sakurai, Shingo Nakayama, Shizuko Kagawa, Sachika Wada, Makoto Ishii, Tomoko Betsuyaku, Koichi Fukunaga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Cigarette smoke (CS) is associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cancer. However, the underlying pathological mechanisms are not well understood. We recently reported that mice exposed to long-term intermittent CS for 3 months developed more severe emphysema and higher incidence of adenocarcinoma than mice exposed to long-term continuous CS for 3 months and long-term continuous CS exposure activated alveolar stem cell proliferation. However, the influence of variations in the CS exposure pattern in alveolar stem cell in unknown. Here, we exposed mice to 3 weeks of continuous or intermittent CS to identify whether different CS exposure patterns would result in differential effects on stem cells and the mechanisms underlying these potential differences. Methods: Female mice expressing GFP in alveolar type 2 (AT2) cells, which are stem cells of the alveolar compartment, were exposed to mainstream CS via nasal inhalation. AT2 cells were collected based on their GFP expression by flow cytometry and co-cultured with fibroblasts in stem cell 3D organoid/colony-forming assays. We compared gene expression profiles of continuous and intermittent CS-exposed AT2 cells using microarray analysis and performed a functional assessment of a differentially expressed gene to confirm its involvement in the process using activator and inhibitor studies. Results: AT2 cells sorted from intermittent CS-exposed mice formed significantly more colonies compared to those from continuous CS-exposed mice, and both CS-exposed groups formed significantly more colonies when compared to air-exposed cells. Comparative microarray analysis revealed the upregulation of genes related to fatty acid oxidation (FAO) pathways in AT2 cells from intermittent CS-exposed mice. Treatment of intermittent CS-exposed mice with etomoxir, an inhibitor of the FAO regulator Cpt1a, for 5 weeks resulted in a significant suppression of the efficiency of AT2 cell colony formation. In vitro treatment of naïve AT2 cells with a FAO activator and inhibitor further confirmed the relationship between FAO and AT2 stem cell function. Conclusions: Alveolar stem cell function was more strongly activated by intermittent CS exposure than by continuous CS exposure. We provide evidence that AT2 stem cells respond to intermittent CS exposure by activating stem cell proliferation via the activation of FAO.

Original languageEnglish
Article number41
JournalRespiratory Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Dec


  • Alveolar type 2 cell
  • Carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1a
  • Colony-forming efficiency
  • Fatty acid oxidation
  • Intermittent cigarette smoke
  • Lung stem cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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