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Tobacco smoking is the largest risk factor for developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and is associated with hyperresponsiveness of airway smooth muscle (ASM). Chronic exposure to cigarette smoke (CS) leads to airway inflammation and remodelling. However, the direct effect of gaseous CS or CS extract (CSE) on human airway smooth muscle cell (hASMC) function remains poorly understood. This study investigated the acute effect of CS/CSE on calcium homeostasis, a key regulator of ASM physiology and pathophysiology. Primary hASMC were isolated from non-smoking donor lungs, and subjected to Ca2+ imaging studies. We found that both CS, and CSE, rapidly elevated cytosolic Ca2+ in hASMC through stimulation of plasmalemmal Ca2+ influx, but excluded store-operated and L-type Ca2+ channels as mediators of this effect. Using a specific pharmacological inhibitor, or shRNA-driven knockdown, we established that both CS and CSE stimulated Ca2+ influx in hASMC through the neurogenic pain receptor channel, transient receptor potential ankyrin 1 (TRPA1). CS/CSE-dependent, TRPA1-mediated Ca2+ influx led to myosin light-chain phosphorylation, a key process regulating ASM contractility. We conclude that TRPA1 is likely an important link between CS/CSE exposure and airway hyperresponsiveness, and speculate that acute CS/CSE-induced Ca2+ influx could lead to exacerbated ASM contraction and potentially initiate further chronic pathological effects of tobacco smoke.

Original publication




Journal article


Scientific reports

Publication Date





Biosciences Institute, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 4HH, Tyne and Wear, UK.


Trachea, Myocytes, Smooth Muscle, Humans, Calcium, Smoke, Phosphorylation, TRPA1 Cation Channel