• Rat;
  • Macrophages;
  • Granulocyte/Monocyte Colony-Stimulating Factor;
  • Oxidative Stress;
  • Lung;
  • Bacterial Infections;
  • Zinc

Background:  Chronic alcohol abuse causes oxidative stress, impairs alveolar macrophage immune function, and increases the risk of pneumonia and acute lung injury. Recently we determined that chronic alcohol ingestion in rats decreases zinc levels and macrophage function in the alveolar space; provocative findings in that zinc is essential for normal immune and antioxidant defenses. Alveolar macrophage immune function depends on stimulation by granulocyte/monocyte colony-stimulating factor, which signals via the transcription factor PU.1. In parallel, the antioxidant response element signals via the transcription factor Nrf2. However, the role of zinc bioavailability on these signaling pathways within the alveolar space is unknown.

Methods:  To determine the efficacy of dietary zinc supplementation on lung bacterial clearance and oxidative stress, we tested 3 different groups of rats: control-fed, alcohol-fed, and alcohol-fed with zinc supplementation. Rats were then inoculated with intratracheal Klebsiella pneumoniae, and lung bacterial clearance was determined 24 hours later. Isolated alveolar macrophages were isolated from uninfected animals and evaluated for oxidative stress and signaling through PU.1 and Nrf2.

Results:  Alcohol-fed rats had a 5-fold decrease in lung bacterial clearance compared to control-fed rats. Dietary zinc supplementation of alcohol-fed rats normalized bacterial clearance and mitigated oxidative stress in the alveolar space, as reflected by the relative balance of the thiol redox pair cysteine and cystine, and increased nuclear binding of both PU.1 and Nrf2 in alveolar macrophages from alcohol-fed rats.

Conclusions:  Dietary zinc supplementation prevents alcohol-induced alveolar macrophage immune dysfunction and oxidative stress in a relevant experimental model, suggesting that such a strategy could decrease the risk of pneumonia and lung injury in individuals with alcohol use disorders.