Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are products of normal cellular metabolism and are known to act as second messengers. Under physiological conditions, ROS participate in maintenance of cellular 'redox homeostasis' in order to protect cells against oxidative stress. In addition, regulation of redox state is important for cell activation, viability, proliferation, and organ function. However, overproduction of ROS, most frequently due to excessive stimulation of either reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) by pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and interleukin-1β (IL-1β) or the mitochondrial electron transport chain and xanthine oxidase, results in oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a deleterious process that leads to airway and lung damage and consequently to several respiratory inflammatory diseases/injuries, including acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), asthma, cystic fibrosis (CF), and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Many of the known inflammatory target proteins, such as matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9), intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1), vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1), cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), and cytosolic phospholipase A2 (cPLA2), are associated with NADPH oxidase activation and ROS overproduction in response to pro-inflammatory mediators. Thus, oxidative stress regulates both key inflammatory signal transduction pathways and target proteins involved in airway and lung inflammation. In this review, we discuss mechanisms of NADPH oxidase/ROS in the expression of inflammatory target proteins involved in airway and lung diseases. Knowledge of the mechanisms of ROS regulation could lead to the pharmacological manipulation of antioxidants in airway and lung inflammation and injury.
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