Emphysema is characterized by alveolar wall destruction induced mainly by cigarette smoke. Oxidative damage of DNA may contribute to the pathophysiology of this disease. We studied the impairment of the non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) repair pathway and DNA damage in alveolar type II (ATII) cells and emphysema development. We isolated primary ATII cells from control smokers, nonsmokers, and patients with emphysema to determine DNA damage and repair. We found higher reactive oxygen species generation and DNA damage in ATII cells obtained from individuals with this disease in comparison with controls. We also observed low phosphorylation of H2AX, which activates DSBs repair signaling, in emphysema. Our results indicate the impairement of NHEJ, as detected by low XLF expression. We also analyzed the role of DJ-1, which has a cytoprotective activity. We detected DJ-1 and XLF interaction in ATII cells in emphysema, which suggests the impairment of their function. Moreover, we found that DJ-1 KO mice are more susceptible to DNA damage induced by cigarette smoke. Our results suggest that oxidative DNA damage and ineffective the DSBs repair via the impaired NHEJ may contribute to ATII cell death in emphysema.
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