How Smoking Encourages Infection
Smokers are often more prone to bacterial infections and inflammatory diseases than the rest of us, thanks to hundreds of toxic components in their cigarettes. Next to dry and irritated mucosal linings in mouth and respiratory system due to smoke and nicotine, now new research shows that nicotine affects neutrophils, the short-lived white blood cells that defend against infection, by reducing their ability to seek and destroy bacteria.
Neutrophils are generated by our bone marrow, which they leave as terminally differentiated cells. Although nicotine is known to affect neutrophils, there has been no study until now of the mechanisms at work when nicotine is present during neutrophil differentiation. David Scott from the Oral Health and Systemic Disease Research Group at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry, Kentucky, USA, along with a team of international colleagues decided to investigate how nicotine influenced the differentiation process.
The authors suggest the processes they observed as contributing to impaired neutrophil function partially explain chronic tobacco users’ increased susceptibility to bacterial infection and inflammatory diseases. A better understanding of this relationship could pave the way for specific therapeutic strategies to treat a number of important tobacco-associated inflammatory diseases and conditions.
The team modeled the neutrophil differentiation process beginning with promyelocytic HL-60 cells, which differentiated into neutrophils following dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) treatment both with and without nicotine. The researchers found that nicotine increased the percentage of cells in late differentiation phases (metamyelocytes, banded neutrophils and segmented neutrophils) compared to DMSO alone, but did not affect other neutrophil differentiation markers that they examined.
However, the nicotine treated neutrophils were less able to seek and destroy bacteria than nicotine-free neutrophils. The nicotine suppressed the oxidative burst in HL-60 cells, a function that helps kill invading bacteria. Nicotine also increased MMP-9 release, a factor involved in tissue degradation.BMC Cell Biol. 2008 Apr 15;9(1):19 [Epub ahead of print]
ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Neutrophils leave the bone marrow as terminally differentiated cells, yet little is known of the influence of nicotine or other tobacco smoke components on neutrophil differentiation. Therefore, promyelocytic HL-60 cells were differentiated into neutrophils using dimethylsulfoxide in the presence and absence of nicotine (3-(1-methyl-2-pyrrolidinyl) pyridine). Differentiation was evaluated over 5 days by monitoring terminal differentiation markers (CD11b expression and formazan deposition); cell viability, growth phase, kinetics, and apoptosis; assessing cellular morphology and ultrastructure; and conformational changes to major cellular components. Key neutrophil effector functions (oxidative burst, bacterial killing, matrix metalloproteinase release) were also examined. Results: Nicotine increased the percentage of cells in late differentiation phases (metamyelocytes, banded neutrophils and segmented neutrophils) compared to DMSO alone (p < 0.05), but did not affect any other marker of neutrophil differentiation examined. However, nicotine exposure during differentiation suppressed the oxidative burst in HL-60 cells (p < 0.001); inhibited bacterial killing (p < 0.01); and increased the LPS-induced release of MMP-9, but not MMP-2 (p < 0.05). These phenomena may be alpha-7-acetylcholine nicotinic receptor-dependent. Furthermore, smokers exhibited an increased MMP-9 burden compared to non-smokers in vivo (p < 0.05). Conclusions: These findings may partially explain the known increase in susceptibility to bacterial infection and neutrophil-associated destructive inflammatory diseases in individuals chronically exposed to nicotine.