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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive lung disease with poor treatment options. However, most mouse models of COPD produce a primarily emphysematous disease not recapitulating clinically meaningful COPD features like chronic bronchitis. Wild-type ferrets (Mustela putorius furo) were divided randomly into two groups: whole body cigarette smoke exposure and air controls. Ferrets were exposed to smoke from 1R6F research cigarettes, twice daily for six months. RNA-sequencing was performed on RNA isolated from lung tissue. Comparative transcriptomics analyses of COPD in ferrets, mice, and humans were done to find the uniquely expressed genes. Further, Real-time PCR was performed to confirmed RNA-Seq data on multiple selected genes. RNA-sequence analysis identified 420 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) that were associated with the development of COPD in ferrets. By comparative analysis, we identified 25 DEGs that are uniquely expressed in ferrets and humans, but not mice. Among DEGs, a number were related to mucociliary clearance (NEK-6, HAS1, and KL), while others have been correlated with abnormal lung function (IL-18), inflammation (TREM1, CTSB), or oxidative stress (SRX1, AHRR). Multiple cellular pathways were aberrantly altered in the COPD ferret model, including pathways associated with COPD pathogenesis in humans. Validation of these selected unique DEGs using real-time PCR demonstrated > absolute 2-fold changes in mRNA versus air controls, consistent with RNA-seq analysis. Cigarette smoke-induced COPD in ferrets modulates gene expression consistent with human COPD and suggests that the ferret model may be uniquely well suited for the study of aspects of the disease. © 2022. The Author(s).


Shah S Hussain, Yvonne J K Edwards, Emily Falk Libby, Denise Stanford, Stephen A Byzek, Don D Sin, Merry-Lynn McDonald, S Vamsee Raju, Steven M Rowe. Comparative transcriptomics in human COPD reveals dysregulated genes uniquely expressed in ferrets. Respiratory research. 2022 Oct 10;23(1):277

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PMID: 36217144

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