Melatonin prevents LPS-induced epithelial-mesenchymal transition in human alveolar epithelial cells via the GSK-3β/Nrf2 pathway.
Biomed Pharmacother. 2020 Dec ;132:110827. Epub 2020 Oct 13. PMID: 33065391
BACKGROUND: Oxidative stress plays a critical role in pulmonary fibrosis after acute lung injury (ALI), and epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) events are involved in this process. The purpose of this study was to investigate the protective effects of melatonin, a natural antioxidant, on lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced EMT in human alveolar epithelial cells.
METHODS: Human type II alveolar epithelial cell-derived A549 cells were incubated with LPS and melatonin alone or in combination for up to 24 h. The morphological changes of the treated cells were evaluated as well as indexes of oxidative stress. EMT-related proteins and the Nrf2 signaling pathway were detected by western blot analysis and immunofluorescence staining, respectively. To further investigate the underlying mechanisms, the effects of melatonin on cells transfected Nrf2 short hairpin RNA (shRNA) and the PI3K / GSK-3β signaling pathway were evaluated.
RESULTS: Treatment with melatonin upregulated Nrf2 expression, inhibited LPS-induced cell morphological change, reversed the expressions of EMT-related proteins, and reduced reactive oxygen species (ROS) production in A549 cells, as well as the levels of malondialdehyde (MDA) and anti-oxidative enzymes. Yet, the effects of melatonin were almost completely abolished in cells transfected Nrf2 shRNA. Furthermore, the data demonstrated that melatonin could activate the PI3K/AKT signaling pathway, resulting in phosphorylation of GSK-3β (Ser9) and upregulation of the Nrf2 protein in A549 cells, which ultimately attenuated LPS-induced EMT.
CONCLUSION: The present study is the first to demonstrate that melatonin can protect human alveolar epithelial cells against oxidative stress by effectively inhibiting LPS-induced EMT, which was mostly dependent on upregulation of the Nrf2 pathway via the PI3K/GSK-3β axis. Further studies are warranted to investigate the role of melatonin for the treatment of oxidative stress-associated diseases, as well as pulmonary fibrosis after ALI.