Respiratory research

The role of bronchial epithelial cells in the pathogenesis of COPD in Z-alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency.

PMID 25218041


Alpha-1 antitrypsin is the main inhibitor of neutrophil elastase in the lung. Although it is principally synthesized by hepatocytes, alpha-1 antitrypsin is also secreted by bronchial epithelial cells. Gene mutations can lead to alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, with the Z variant being the most clinically relevant due to its propensity to polymerize. The ability of bronchial epithelial cells to produce Z-variant protein and its polymers is unknown. Experiments using a conformation-specific antibody were carried out on M- and Z-variant-transfected 16HBE cells and on bronchial biopsies and ex vivo bronchial epithelial cells from Z and M homozygous patients. In addition, the effect of an inflammatory stimulus on Z-variant polymer formation, elicited by Oncostatin M, was investigated. Comparisons of groups were performed using t-test or ANOVA. Non-normally distributed data were assessed by Mann-Whitney U test or the Kruskal-Wallis test, where appropriate. A P value of < 0.05 was considered to be significant. Alpha-1 antitrypsin polymers were found at a higher concentration in the culture medium of ex vivo bronchial epithelial cells from Z-variant homozygotes, compared with M-variant homozygotes (P < 0.01), and detected in the bronchial epithelial cells and submucosa of patient biopsies. Oncostatin M significantly increased the expression of alpha-1 antitrypsin mRNA and protein (P < 0.05), and the presence of Z-variant polymers in ex vivo cells (P < 0.01). Polymers of Z-alpha-1 antitrypsin form in bronchial epithelial cells, suggesting that these cells may be involved in the pathogenesis of lung emphysema and in bronchial epithelial cell dysfunction.