MiR-223 is increased in lungs of patients with COPD and modulates cigarette smoke-induced pulmonary inflammation

Mirjam P Roffel, Tania Maes, Corry-Anke Brandsma, Maarten van den Berge, Bart M Vanaudenaerde, Guy F Joos, Guy G Brusselle, Irene H Heijink, Ken R Bracke*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Since microRNA (miR)-223-3p modulates inflammatory responses and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is associated with amplified pulmonary inflammation, we hypothesized that miR-223-3p plays a role in COPD pathogenesis. Expression of miR-223-3p was measured in lung tissue of two independent cohorts with patients with GOLD stage II-IV COPD, never smokers, and smokers without COPD. The functional role of miR-223-3p was studied in deficient mice and on overexpression in airway epithelial cells from COPD and controls. We observed higher miR-223-3p levels in patients with COPD stage II-IV compared with (non)-smoking controls, and levels were associated with higher neutrophil numbers in bronchial biopsies of patients with COPD. MiR-223-3p expression was also increased in lungs and bronchoalveolar lavage of cigarette smoke (CS)-exposed mice. CS-induced neutrophil and monocyte lung infiltration was stronger in miR-223-deficient mice on acute (5 days) exposure, but attenuated on subchronic (4 wk) exposure. Additionally, miR-223 deficiency attenuated acute and subchronic CS-induced lung infiltration of dendritic cells and T lymphocytes. Finally, in vitro overexpression of miR-223-3p in non-COPD airway epithelial cells suppressed C-X-C motif chemokine ligand 8 (CXCL8) and granulocyte monocyte-colony stimulation factor (GM-CSF) secretion and gene expression of the proinflammatory transcription factor TRAF6. Importantly, this suppressive effect of miR-223-3p was compromised in COPD-derived cultures. In conclusion, we demonstrate that miR-223-3p is increased in lungs of patients with COPD and CS-exposed mice and is associated with neutrophilic inflammation. In vivo data indicate that miR-223 acts as negative regulator of acute CS-induced neutrophilic and monocytic inflammation. In vitro data suggest that miR-223-3p does so by suppressing proinflammatory airway epithelial responses, which is less effective in COPD epithelium.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L1091-L1104
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number6
Early online date20-Oct-2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec-2021


  • COPD
  • inflammation
  • miRNA

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