Alcohol potentiates RSV-mediated injury to ciliated airway epithelium

Todd A. Wyatt, Kristina L. Bailey, Samantha M. Simet, Kristi J. Warren, Jenea M. Sweeter, Jane M. DeVasure, Jaqueline A. Pavlik, Joseph H. Sisson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Alcohol impairs resolution of respiratory viral infections. Numerous immune response pathways are altered in response to alcohol misuse, including alcohol-induced ciliary dysfunction in the lung. We hypothesized that mucociliary clearance-mediated innate immunity to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) would be compromised by alcohol exposure. Cilia were assayed using Sisson-Ammons Video Analysis by quantitating the average number of motile points in multiple whole field measurements of mouse tracheal epithelial cells grown on an air-liquid interface. Pretreatment with ethanol alone (100 mM for 24 hours) had no effect on the number of motile cilia. A single dose (TCID50 1 × 105) of RSV resulted in a significant (p < 0.05) decrease in motile cilia after 2 days. Ethanol pretreatment significantly (p < 0.05) potentiated RSV-induced cilia loss by 2 days. Combined RSV and ethanol treatment led to a sustained activation-induced auto-downregulation of PKC epsilon (PKCε). Ethanol-induced enhancement of ciliated cell detachment was confirmed by dynein ELISA and LDH activity from the supernates. RSV-induced cilia loss was evident until 7 days, when RSV-only infected cells demonstrated no significant cilia loss vs. control cells. However, cells pretreated with ethanol showed significant cilia loss until 10 days post-RSV infection. To address the functional significance of ethanol-enhanced cilia detachment, mice fed alcohol ad libitum (20% for 12 weeks) were infected once with RSV, and clearance was measured by plaque-forming assay from lung homogenates for up to 7 days. After 3 days, RSV plaque formation was no longer detected from the lungs of control mice, while significant (p < 0.01) RSV plaque-forming units were detected at 7 days in alcohol-fed mice. Alcohol-fed mice demonstrated enhanced cilia loss and delayed cilia recovery from tracheal measurements in wild-type C57BL/6 mice, but not PKCε KO mice. These data suggest that alcohol worsens RSV-mediated injury to ciliated epithelium in a PKCε-dependent manner.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-24
Number of pages8
StatePublished - Nov 2019


  • Ciliary beat frequency
  • Mouse tracheal epithelial cell
  • Protein kinase C
  • Respiratory syncytial virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Biochemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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