Workers exposed to aerosolized dust present in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are susceptible to inflammatory lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Extracts of dust collected from hog CAFOs [hog dust extract (HDE)] are potent stimulators of lung inflammatory responses in several model systems. The observation that HDE contains active proteases prompted the present study, which evaluated the role of CAFO dust proteases in lung inflammatory processes and tested whether protease-activated receptors (PARs) are involved in the signaling pathway for these events. We hypothesized that the damaging proinflammatory effect of HDE is due, in part, to the proteolytic activation of PARs, and inhibiting the proteases in HDE or disrupting PAR activation would attenuate HDE-mediated inflammatory indexes in bronchial epithelial cells (BECs), in mouse lung slices in vitro, and in a murine in vivo exposure model. Human BECs and mouse lung slice cultures stimulated with 5% HDE released significantly more of each of the cytokines measured (IL-6, IL-8, TNF-α, keratinocyte-derived chemokine/CXC chemokine ligand 1, and macrophage inflammatory protein-2/CXC chemokine ligand 2) than controls, and these effects were markedly diminished by protease inhibition. Inhibition of PARs also blunted the HDE-induced cytokine release from BECs. In addition, protease depletion inhibited HDE-induced BEC intracellular PKCα and PKCε activation. C57BL/6J mice administered 12.5% HDE intranasally, either once or daily for 3 wk, exhibited increased total cellular and neutrophil influx, bronchial alveolar fluid inflammatory cytokines, lung histopathology, and inflammatory scores compared with mice receiving protease-depleted HDE. These data suggest that proteases in dust from CAFOs are important mediators of lung inflammation, and these proteases and their receptors may provide novel targets for therapeutic intervention in CAFO dust-induced airways disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L388-L399
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 18 2015


  • Environmental dust
  • Epithelial cell
  • Inflammation
  • Lung
  • Protease-activated receptors
  • Proteases

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


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