Oxidative and nitrosative stress in the pathogenesis of obstructive lung diseases of increasing severity

A. Di Stefano, M. Maniscalco, B. Balbi, F.L.M. Ricciardolo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The imbalance between increased oxidative agents and antioxidant defence mechanisms is central in the pathogenesis of obstructive lung diseases such as asthma and COPD. In these patients, there are increased levels of reactive oxygen species. Superoxide anions (O2-), Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) and hydroxyl radicals (.OH) are critical for the formation of further cytotoxic radicals in the bronchi and lung parenchyma. Chronic inflammation, partly induced by oxidative stress, can further increase the oxidant burden through activated phagocytic cells (neutrophils, eosinophils, macrophages), particularly in severer disease states. Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory genes are, in fact, frequently downregulated in diseased patients. Nrf2, which activates the Antioxidant Response Element (ARE) leading to upregulation of GPx, thiol metabolism-associated detoxifying enzymes (GSTs) and stressresponse genes (HO-1) are all downregulated in animal models and patients with asthma and COPD. An exaggerated production of Nitric Oxide (NO) in the presence of oxidative stress can promote the formation of oxidizing reactive nitrogen species, such as peroxynitrite (ONO2-), leading to nitration and DNA damage, inhibition of mitochondrial respiration, protein dysfunction, and cell damage in the biological systems. Protein nitration also occurs by activation of myeloperoxidase and H2O2, promoting oxidation of nitrite (NO2-). There is increased nitrotyrosine and myeloperoxidase in the bronchi of COPD patients, particularly in severe disease. The decreased peroxynitrite inhibitory activity found in induced sputum of COPD patients correlates with pulmonary function. Markers of protein nitration-3nitrotyrosine, 3-bromotyrosine, and 3-chlorotyrosine-are increased in the bronchoalveolar lavage of severe asthmatics. Targeting the oxidative, nitrosative stress and associated lung inflammation through the use of either denitration mechanisms or new drug delivery strategies for antioxidant administration could improve the treatment of these chronic disabling obstructive lung diseases. © 2020 Bentham Science Publishers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7149-7158
Number of pages10
JournalCurrent Medicinal Chemistry
Issue number42
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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