Epigenetics of Mucus Hypersecretion in Chronic Respiratory Diseases

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DNA methylation, histone acetylation, epigenetics, mucus hypersecretion, respiratory diseases

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Asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cystic fibrosis are three chronic pulmonary diseases that affect an estimated 420 million individuals across the globe. A key factor contributing to each of these conditions is mucus hypersecretion. Although management of these diseases is vastly studied, researchers have only begun to scratch the surface of the mechanisms contributing to mucus hypersecretion. Epigenetic regulation of mucus hypersecretion, other than microRNA post-translational modification, is even more scarcely researched. Detailed study of epigenetic mechanisms, such as DNA methylation and histone modification, could not only help to better the understanding of these respiratory conditions but also reveal new treatments for them. Because mucus hypersecretion is such a complex event, there are innumerable genes involved in the process, which are beyond the scope of a single review. Therefore, the purpose of this review is to narrow the focus and summarize specific epigenetic research that has been conducted on a few aspects of mucus hypersecretion in asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis, and some cancers. Specifically, this review emphasizes the contribution of DNA methylation and histone modification of particular genes involved in mucus hypersecretion to identify possible targets for the development of future therapies for these conditions. Elucidating the role of epigenetics in these respiratory diseases may provide a breath of fresh air to millions of affected individuals around the world.

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American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology, v. 58, issue 3, p. 299-309