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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