The Importance Of Zinc In Respiratory Diseases

Researchers in Japan have identified zinc transport as a critical element of lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cystic fibrosis.

AsianScientist (Jan. 3, 2018) – A team of scientists in Japan has discovered that the genes involved in zinc transport play a role in respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cystic fibrosis (CF). They published their findings in the journal EBioMedicine.

Obstructive pulmonary disease is a collective term for respiratory diseases with chronic airway inflammation and excessive mucus retention that are accompanied by blockage of the airways. COPD, caused by smoking, and CF, an intractable hereditary disease characterized by mucus retention and chronic bacterial infection, are examples of obstructive pulmonary disease.

COPD is thought to involve the overactivation of the epithelial sodium ion channel (ENaC) in the airways. CF, on the other hand, is caused by genetic mutation of a chloride ion channel called the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR).

In the present study, researchers of Kumamoto University, Japan, have discovered that abnormalities of the ion channels ENaC and CFTR reduce the body’s ability to deliver zinc ions to lung epithelial cells. One of the zinc ion transporting factors, ZIP2, is an important mechanism for mRNA splicing to function correctly.

In addition, the researchers also revealed that COPD and CF lung epithelial cells have abnormalities in mRNA ligation, which resulted in overproduction of mucus genes. The researchers believe that this discovery is the first in the world that clarifies how zinc is involved in the onset of pulmonary diseases, as well as its effects on the regulation of mRNA.

They also suggest that treatments for these diseases cannot be based on zinc supplementation alone. A therapeutic approach that takes into consideration the transport mechanisms of zinc ions is also necessary.

The article can be found at: Kamei et al. (2017) Zinc Deficiency via a Splice Switch in Zinc Importer ZIP2/SLC39A2 Causes Cystic Fibrosis-Associated MUC5AC Hypersecretion in Airway Epithelial Cells.


Source: Kumamoto University; Photo: Shutterstock.
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