Effects of azithromycin on glutathione S-transferases in cystic fibrosis airway cells

Gabriella Bergamini, Cristina Cigana, Claudio Sorio, Marco Della Peruta, Alfonso Pompella, Alessandro Corti, Francxois A. Huaux, Teresinha Leal, Baroukh M. Assael, Paola Melotti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Anti-inflammatory properties of azithromycin (AZM) have been proposed as possible mechanisms of clinical beneficial effects in patients with cystic fibrosis (CF). Altered glutathione (GSH) transport in cystic fibrosis transmembrane regulator protein (CFTR)-deficient cells leads to the occurrence of oxidative stress that finally induces glutathione S-transferase (GST) activity. The present investigation was aimed to verify the effects of AZM on GST activity and expression in CF airway cells in vitro and in vivo. AZM exposure significantly decreased GSTT1 and GSTM1 mRNA and protein expression in IB3-1, restoring the levels to those observed in non-CFC38 cells, which also express lower levels ofg-glutamyltransferase (GGT) activity than IB3-1. In another CF cell line, 2CFSMEo-, AZM produced 45% reduction in GSTT1 and GSTM1 mRNA levels. AZM reduced GST activity by approximately 25% and 40% in IB3-1 and 2CFSMEo- cells, respectively. GSTP1 was similarly expressed in all CF and non-CF cells and was unaffected by AZM. The anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 down-modulated GST activity at similar levels, supporting a link between GST inhibition and anti-inflammatory properties of AZM. In bronchoalveolar lavage fluid of CF mice homozygous for the F508 del mutation, GSTM1 protein levels were undetectable after AZM treatment. The association between increased GST expression and activity, together with its reversal by AZM treatment in vitro and in vivo, suggest novel antioxidant properties for this drug. The issue whether decreased GST activity may directly concur to anti-inflammatory properties of AZM or is rather a marker of the oxidative status of CF cells will require additional studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-206
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2009


  • γ-glutamyltransferase
  • Azithromycin
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Glutathione S-transferases
  • Inflammation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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