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1.  Can HRCT be used as a marker of airway remodelling in children with difficult asthma? 
Respiratory Research  2006;7(1):46.
Whole airway wall thickening on high resolution computed tomography (HRCT) is reported to parallel thickening of the bronchial epithelial reticular basement membrane (RBM) in adult asthmatics. A similar relationship in children with difficult asthma (DA), in whom RBM thickening is a known feature, may allow the use of HRCT as a non-invasive marker of airway remodelling. We evaluated this relationship in children with DA.
27 children (median age 10.5 [range 4.1–16.7] years) with DA, underwent endobronchial biopsy from the right lower lobe and HRCT less than 4 months apart. HRCTs were assessed for bronchial wall thickening (BWT) of the right lower lobe using semi-quantitative and quantitative scoring techniques. The semi-quantitative score (grade 0–4) was an overall assessment of BWT of all clearly identifiable airways in HRCT scans. The quantitative score (BWT %; defined as [airway outer diameter – airway lumen diameter]/airway outer diameter ×100) was the average score of all airways visible and calculated using electronic endpoint callipers. RBM thickness in endobronchial biopsies was measured using image analysis. 23/27 subjects performed spirometry and the relationships between RBM thickness and BWT with airflow obstruction evaluated.
Median RBM thickness in endobronchial biopsies was 6.7(range 4.6 – 10.0) μm. Median qualitative score for BWT of the right lower lobe was 1(range 0 – 1.5) and quantitative score was 54.3 (range 48.2 – 65.6)%. There was no relationship between RBM thickness and BWT in the right lower lobe using either scoring technique. No relationship was found between FEV1 and BWT or RBM thickness.
Although a relationship between RBM thickness and BWT on HRCT has been found in adults with asthma, this relationship does not appear to hold true in children with DA.
PMCID: PMC1435892  PMID: 16566832
2.  Correlation between the bronchial subepithelial layer and whole airway wall thickness in patients with asthma 
Thorax  2002;57(3):242-246.
Background: The epithelial reticular basement membrane (Rbm) of the airway wall thickens in patients with asthma. However, whether the thickening parallels whole airway wall thickening, which limits airflow, is unknown. The aim of this study was to examine the correlation between the bronchial Rbm thickening and whole airway wall thickening in asthma. In addition, the association of Rbm and whole wall thickening with airflow obstruction was examined.
Methods: Forty nine patients with asthma and 18 healthy control subjects took part in the study. The Rbm thickness was measured in bronchial biopsy specimens and whole airway wall thickness was assessed with high resolution computed tomographic (HRCT) scanning after pretreatment with oral steroids for 2 weeks and inhaled ß2 agonist to minimise reversible changes of the airway walls. The percentage airway wall area (WA%; defined as (wall area/total airway area) x 100) and percentage airway wall thickness (WT%; defined as [(ideal outer diameter – ideal luminal diameter)/ideal outer diameter] x 100) were determined from HRCT scans to assess whole airway wall thickness. Spirometric tests were also performed.
Results: WA% and WT% were higher in patients with asthma than in healthy subjects. Both WA% and WT% were strongly correlated with Rbm thickness. Moreover, these three indices of airway wall thickness were inversely correlated with the percentage of predicted forced expiratory volume in 1 second in patients with asthma.
Conclusions: These findings indicate that Rbm thickening parallels whole airway wall thickening which can cause irreversible airflow obstruction in patients with asthma.
PMCID: PMC1746264  PMID: 11867829
3.  Distinctive characteristics of bronchial reticular basement membrane and vessel remodelling in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and in asthma: they are not the same disease 
Histopathology  2012;60(6):964-970.
This study compared reticular basement membrane (Rbm) and vascular remodelling within the bronchial mucosa of subjects with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) with those from patients with asthma, to test the ‘Dutch hypothesis’ of whether these are essentially the same or different pathological conditions.
Methods and results
Bronchoscopic biopsies were stained with anti-collagen IV antibody; 18 current smoking COPD, 10 symptomatic asthmatics and 13 healthy non-smoking controls were studied. The Rbm in COPD was fragmented, non-homogeneous, variable in thickness and hypervascular, whereas in asthma the Rbm was compact and homogeneous with no evidence of increased vascularity compared to controls. Length of Rbm splitting presented as percentage of Rbm length was used to measure fragmentation; it was greater in COPD than in controls and asthmatics [median (range) 20.7% (0.4–68.5) versus 5.3% (0.0–21.7) versus 1.5% (0.0–15.1), P < 0.001]. The number of Rbm vessels/mm Rbm [median (range) 10.1 (1.6–23.0) versus 4.5 (0.0–26.4) versus 4.4 (0.4–8.1), P < 0.01] and area of Rbm vessels, μm2/mm Rbm [median (range) 953 (115–2456) versus 462 (0–3263) versus 426 (32–2216), P < 0.05] was also increased in COPD compared to normal subjects and asthmatics.
The characteristics of Rbm remodelling are quite different in asthma and COPD.
PMCID: PMC3465784  PMID: 22320998
airway remodelling; asthma; bronchial biopsies; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; reticular basement membrane
4.  Airway inflammation, basement membrane thickening and bronchial hyperresponsiveness in asthma 
Thorax  2002;57(4):309-316.
Background: There are few data in asthma relating airway physiology, inflammation and remodelling and the relative effects of inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) treatment on these parameters. A study of the relationships between spirometric indices, airway inflammation, airway remodelling, and bronchial hyperreactivity (BHR) before and after treatment with high dose inhaled fluticasone propionate (FP 750 µg bd) was performed in a group of patients with relatively mild but symptomatic asthma.
Methods: A double blind, randomised, placebo controlled, parallel group study of inhaled FP was performed in 35 asthmatic patients. Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) and airway biopsy studies were carried out at baseline and after 3 and 12 months of treatment. Twenty two normal healthy non-asthmatic subjects acted as controls.
Results: BAL fluid eosinophils, mast cells, and epithelial cells were significantly higher in asthmatic patients than in controls at baseline (p<0.01). Subepithelial reticular basement membrane (rbm) thickness was variable, but overall was increased in asthmatic patients compared with controls (p<0.01). Multiple regression analysis explained 40% of the variability in BHR, 21% related to rbm thickness, 11% to BAL epithelial cells, and 8% to BAL eosinophils. The longitudinal data corroborated the cross sectional model. Forced expiratory volume in 1 second improved after 3 months of treatment with FP with no further improvement at 12 months. PD20 improved throughout the study. BAL inflammatory cells decreased following 3 months of treatment with no further improvement at 12 months (p<0.05 v placebo). Rbm thickness decreased in the FP group, but only after 12 months of treatment (mean change –1.9, 95% CI –3 to –0.7 µm; p<0.01 v baseline, p<0.05 v placebo). A third of the improvement in BHR with FP was associated with early changes in inflammation, but the more progressive and larger improvement was associated with the later improvement in airway remodelling.
Conclusion: Physiology, airway inflammation and remodelling in asthma are interrelated and improve with ICS. Changes are not temporally concordant, with prolonged treatment necessary for maximal benefit in remodelling and PD20. Determining the appropriate dose of inhaled steroids only by reference to symptoms and lung function, as specified in current international guidelines, and even against indices of inflammation may be over simplistic. The results of this study support the need for early and long term intervention with ICS, even in patients with relatively mild asthma.
PMCID: PMC1746305  PMID: 11923548
5.  Reticular basement membrane in asthma and COPD: Similar thickness, yet different composition 
Reticular basement membrane (RBM) thickening has been variably associated with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Even if RBM thickness is similar in both diseases, its composition might still differ.
To assess whether RBM thickness and composition differ between asthma and COPD.
We investigated 24 allergic asthmatics (forced expiratory volume in one second [FEV1] 92% predicted), and 17 nonallergic COPD patients (FEV1 60% predicted), and for each group a control group of similar age and smoking habits (12 and 10 persons, respectively). Snap-frozen sections of bronchial biopsies were stained with hematoxylin/eosin and for collagen I, III, IV, V, laminin and tenascin. RBM thickening was assessed by digital image analysis. Relative staining intensity of each matrix component was determined.
Mean (SD) RBM thickness was not significantly different between asthma and COPD 5.5 (1.3) vs 6.0 (1.8) μm, but significantly larger than in their healthy counterparts, ie, 4.7 (0.9) and 4.8 (1.2) μm, respectively. Collagen I and laminin stained significantly stronger in asthma than in COPD. Tenascin stained stronger in asthma than in healthy controls of similar age, and stronger in COPD controls than in asthma controls (p < 0.05).
RBM thickening occurs both in asthma and COPD. We provide supportive evidence that its composition differs in asthma and COPD.
PMCID: PMC2672795  PMID: 19436691
reticular basement membrane thickness; reticular basement membrane composition; asthma; biopsy; COPD; remodeling
6.  Exhaled breath condensate cysteinyl leukotrienes and airway remodeling in childhood asthma: a pilot study 
Respiratory Research  2006;7(1):63.
It has been suggested that cysteinyl leukotrienes (cysLTs) play an important role in airway remodeling. Previous reports have indicated that cysLTs augment human airway smooth muscle cell proliferation. Recently, cysLTs have been measured in exhaled breath condensate (EBC). The aim of this study was to evaluate the relationship between cysLTs in EBC and another marker of airway remodeling, reticular basement membrane (RBM) thickening, in endobronchial biopsies in children.
29 children, aged 4–15 years, with moderate to severe persistent asthma, who underwent bronchoscopy as part of their clinical assessment, were included. Subjects underwent spirometry and EBC collection for cysLTs analysis, followed by bronchoscopy and endobronchial biopsy within 24 hours.
EBC cysLTs were significantly lower in asthmatic children who were treated with montelukast than in those who were not (median (interquartile range) 36.62 (22.60–101.05) versus 249.1 (74.21–526.36) pg/ml, p = 0.004). There was a significant relationship between EBC cysLTs and RBM thickness in the subgroup of children who were not treated with montelukast (n = 13, r = 0.75, p = 0.003).
EBC cysLTs appear to be associated with RBM thickening in asthma.
PMCID: PMC1456970  PMID: 16603074
7.  Airway remodelling in children with cystic fibrosis 
Thorax  2007;62(12):1074-1080.
The relationship between airway structural changes and inflammation is unclear in early cystic fibrosis (CF) lung disease. A study was undertaken to determine changes in airway remodelling in children with CF compared with appropriate disease and healthy controls.
Bronchoalveolar lavage and endobronchial biopsy were performed in a cross‐sectional study of 43 children with CF (aged 0.3–16.8 years), 7 children with primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD), 26 with chronic respiratory symptoms (CRS) investigated for recurrent infection and/or cough and 7 control children with no lower airway symptoms. Inflammatory cells, cytokines, proteases and matrix constituents were measured in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF). Reticular basement membrane (RBM) thickness was measured on biopsy specimens using light microscopy.
Increased concentrations of elastin, glycosaminoglycans and collagen were found in BALF from children with CF compared with the CRS group and controls, each correlating positively with age, neutrophil count and proteases (elastase activity and matrix metalloproteinase‐9 (MMP‐9) concentration). There were significant negative correlations between certain of these and pulmonary function (forced expiratory volume in 1 s) in the CF group (elastin: r = −0.45, p<0.05; MMP‐9:TIMP‐1 ratio: r = −0.47, p<0.05). Median RBM thickness was greater in the CF group than in the controls (5.9 μm vs 4.0 μm, p<0.01) and correlated positively with levels of transforming growth factor‐β1 (TGF‐β1; r = 0.53, p = 0.01), although not with other inflammatory markers or pulmonary function.
This study provides evidence for two forms of airway remodelling in children with CF: (1) matrix breakdown, related to inflammation, proteolysis and impaired pulmonary function, and (2) RBM thickening, related to TGF‐β1 concentration but independent of other markers of inflammation.
PMCID: PMC2094274  PMID: 17526676
8.  Airway inflammation in children with difficult asthma: relationships with airflow limitation and persistent symptoms 
Thorax  2004;59(10):862-869.
Background: The effective management and development of new treatments for children with difficult asthma requires investigation of the underlying airway pathology and its relationships with persistent symptoms and airflow limitation.
Methods: The density of immunologically distinct inflammatory cells and cells expressing interleukin (IL)-4, IL-5, and RANTES was determined in paraffin-embedded endobronchial biopsy specimens from 27 children with difficult asthma (6–16 years) following treatment with systemic corticosteroids. Eleven non-asthmatic children (7–16 years) acted as controls. Reticular basement membrane (RBM) thickness was also recorded and forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) and exhaled nitric oxide (FENO) measured, the latter in asthmatic children only.
Results: RBM thickness was greater in the asthmatic than the control group (median (range) 7.4 (3.1–11.1) v 5.1 (3.5–7.5) µm, p = 0.02). No other significant tissue difference was seen, nor was there a difference between asthmatic subjects with daily symptoms after systemic corticosteroids and those who became asymptomatic. CD4+ T lymphocyte density was higher in asthmatic subjects with persistent airflow limitation (post-bronchodilator FEV1<80% predicted) than in those without (9.1 (5.5–13.6) v 3.5 (0.6–34.9)%, p = 0.027). Analysing all asthmatic subjects together, there were negative correlations between CD4+ T lymphocytes and both pre-bronchodilator FEV1 (r = –0.57 (95% CI –0.79 to –0.23), p = 0.002) and post-bronchodilator FEV1 (r = –0.61 (95% CI –0.81 to –0.29), p<0.001). There were no significant correlations between FENO and inflammatory cells of any type.
Conclusion: In children with difficult asthma treated with systemic corticosteroids, persistent airflow limitation is associated with a greater density of CD4+ T lymphocytes in endobronchial biopsy specimens.
PMCID: PMC1746838  PMID: 15454652
9.  Atopy May Be an Important Determinant of Subepithelial Fibrosis in Subjects with Asymptomatic Airway Hyperresponsiveness 
Journal of Korean Medical Science  2008;23(3):390-396.
The bronchial pathology of asymptomatic airway hyperreponsiveness (AHR) subjects is not well understood, and the role of atopy in the development of airway remodeling is unclear. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether atopy is associated with airway remodeling in asymptomatic AHR subjects. Five groups, i.e., atopic or non-atopic subjects with asymptomatic AHR, atopic or non-atopic healthy controls, and subjects with mild atopic asthma, were evaluated by bronchoscopic biopsy. By electron microscopy, mean reticular basement membrane (RBM) thicknesses were 4.3±1.7 µm, 3.4±1.8 µm, 2.5±1.5 µm, 2.6±1.1 µm, and 2.3±1.2 µm in the mild atopic asthma, atopic and non-atopic asymptomatic AHR, atopic and non-atopic control groups, respectively (p=0.002). RBM thicknesses were significantly higher in the mild atopic asthma group and in the atopic asymptomatic AHR group than in the other three groups (p=0.048). No significant difference in RBM thickness was observed between the atopic asymptomatic AHR group and the mild atopic asthma group (p>0.05), nor between non-atopic asymptomatic AHR group and the two control groups (p>0.05). By light microscopy, subepithelial layer thicknesses between the groups showed the same results. These findings suggest that RBM thickening occurs in subjects with atopic asymptomatic AHR, and that atopy plays an important role in airway remodeling.
PMCID: PMC2526529  PMID: 18583872
Asymptomatic Airway Hyperresponsiveness; Atopy; Airway Remodeling; Reticular Basement Membrane; Subepithelial Layer Thickness
10.  Vessel-Associated Transforming Growth Factor-Beta1 (TGF-β1) Is Increased in the Bronchial Reticular Basement Membrane in COPD and Normal Smokers 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39736.
Transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-β1) is a multipotential cytokine with angiogenic activity. There are only limited data about its role in airway remodeling in COPD. We have previously shown that the reticular basement membrane (Rbm) is hypervascular in the airways of current smokers either with or without chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This study evaluated TGF-β1 immunostaining in the Rbm and its relationship to vascularity in smokers with or without COPD.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Bronchial biopsies from 15 smokers with normal lung function, 19 current and 14 ex-smokers with COPD were immunostained for TGF-β1 antibody and compared to 17 healthy controls. The percentage area of tissue and also number and area of vessels staining positively for TGF-β1 were measured and compared between groups. Some bronchial biopsies from current smoking COPD subjects were also stained for phosphorylated (active) Smad2/3. Epithelial TGF- β1 staining was not different between COPD current smokers and normal controls. TGF-β1 stained vessels in the Rbm were increased in smokers with normal lung function, current smoking COPD and ex-smokers with COPD compared to controls [median (range) for number of vessels/mm Rbm 2.5 (0.0–12.7), 3.4 (0.0–8.1) and 1.0 (0.0–6.3) vs. 0.0 (0.0–7.0), p<0.05]. Percentage of vessels stained was also increased in these clinical groups. Preliminary data suggest that in current smoking COPD subjects endothelial cells and cells in the Rbm stain positively for phosphorylated Smad2/3 suggesting TGF-β1 is functionally active in this situation.
Vessel-associated TGF-β1 activity is increased in the bronchial Rbm in smokers and especially those with COPD.
PMCID: PMC3387255  PMID: 22768115
11.  Basement membrane and vascular remodelling in smokers and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a cross-sectional study 
Respiratory Research  2010;11(1):105.
Little is known about airway remodelling in bronchial biopsies (BB) in smokers and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). We conducted an initial pilot study comparing BB from COPD patients with nonsmoking controls. This pilot study suggested the presence of reticular basement membrane (Rbm) fragmentation and altered vessel distribution in COPD.
To determine whether Rbm fragmentation and altered vessel distribution in BB were specific for COPD we designed a cross-sectional study and stained BB from 19 current smokers and 14 ex-smokers with mild to moderate COPD and compared these to 15 current smokers with normal lung function and 17 healthy and nonsmoking subjects.
Thickness of the Rbm was not significantly different between groups; although in COPD this parameter was quite variable. The Rbm showed fragmentation and splitting in both current smoking groups and ex-smoker COPD compared with healthy nonsmokers (p < 0.02); smoking and COPD seemed to have additive effects. Rbm fragmentation correlated with smoking history in COPD but not with age. There were more vessels in the Rbm and fewer vessels in the lamina propria in current smokers compared to healthy nonsmokers (p < 0.05). The number of vessels staining for vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in the Rbm was higher in both current smoker groups and ex-smoker COPD compared to healthy nonsmokers (p < 0.004). In current smoker COPD VEGF vessel staining correlated with FEV1% predicted (r = 0.61, p < 0.02).
Airway remodelling in smokers and mild to moderate COPD is associated with fragmentation of the Rbm and altered distribution of vessels in the airway wall. Rbm fragmentation was also present to as great an extent in ex-smokers with COPD. These characteristics may have potential physiological consequences.
PMCID: PMC2918561  PMID: 20670454
12.  Airway hyperresponsiveness is dissociated from airway wall structural remodeling 
Nonasthmatic eosinophilic bronchitis (EB) has emerged as a useful tool to study the structural and inflammatory mechanisms of airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR) in asthma. We have previously shown that vascular remodeling and reticular basement membrane (RBM) thickening are present in EB. However, it is not known whether other features of structural remodeling including increased airway smooth muscle (ASM) mass, matrix deposition, and glandular hyperplasia are also present in EB.
We sought to determine whether structural remodeling occurs in EB and is associated with AHR and airflow limitation.
Forty-two patients with asthma, 21 patients with EB, and 19 healthy volunteers were recruited. ASM area, RBM thickness, collagen 3 deposition, glandular area, mast cells, and granulocytes were assessed in bronchial biopsy samples.
Nonasthmatic eosinophilic bronchitis and asthma were associated with a significant increase in ASM mass and RBM thickness compared with healthy subjects. In contrast, we did not observe any significant differences in collagen 3 deposition in the lamina propria and ASM or the % area of glands in the lamina propria. Univariate analysis demonstrated that mast cell numbers in the ASM were the only feature of remodeling associated with AHR (β = −0.51; P = .004). Stepwise linear regression revealed that a combination of mast cell numbers in the ASM (β = −0.43) and disease duration (β = −0.25; model-adjusted R2 = 0.26; P = .027) best modeled AHR.
Mast cell localization to the ASM bundle, but not structural remodeling of the airway wall, is associated with AHR in asthma.
PMCID: PMC3992373  PMID: 18572228
Asthma; nonasthmatic eosinophilic bronchitis; airway hyperresponsiveness; mast cell; remodeling
13.  IL-13-producing BLT1-positive CD8 cells are increased in asthma and are associated with airway obstruction 
Allergy  2013;68(5):666-673.
The role of CD8 T lymphocytes in the pathogenesis of asthma is not well understood. We investigated whether a subset of IL-13-producing BLT1-positive CD8 T lymphocytes is present in asthmatic airways and is associated with impaired lung function.
Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) cells were obtained from asthmatic (n=39) and healthy control (n=28) subjects. Cells were stimulated with phorbol ester and ionomycin in the presence of brefeldin A and stained for CD8, BLT1 and intracellular IL-13. The frequency of IL-13-producing BLT1-positive CD8 T lymphocytes was compared between the two groups and related to lung function, serum IgE levels and reticular basement membrane (RBM) thickness.
A subset of CD8 T lymphocytes expressing BLT1 and producing IL-13 was detected in the airways of all asthmatic subjects. The frequency of this subset among recovered lymphocytes was significantly higher in the airways of asthmatic subjects compared to controls (mean ± SEM: 16.2 ± 1.4 vs. 5.3 ± 0.5, respectively, p < 0.001), and correlated positively with serum IgE levels and RBM thickness. More importantly, the frequency of CD8 T lymphocytes co-expressing BLT1 and IL-13 was inversely related to FEV1 and FEF[25-75] percent predicted values (p<0.001).
A subset of CD8 T lymphocytes expressing BLT1 and producing IL-13 is present in the airways of asthmatics. The accumulation of these cells is associated with airway obstruction, suggesting that they may play a significant pathogenic role in bronchial asthma.
PMCID: PMC3630251  PMID: 23573812
Asthma; CD8 lymphocytes; immunoglobulin E; interleukin-13; leukotriene B4 receptor
14.  Reticular Basement Membrane Vessels Are Increased in COPD Bronchial Mucosa by Both Factor VIII and Collagen IV Immunostaining and Are Hyperpermeable 
Journal of Allergy  2012;2012:958383.
Background and Objective. Using Collagen IV staining, we have previously reported that the reticular basement membrane (Rbm) is hypervascular and the lamina propria (LP) is hypovascular in COPD airways. This study compared Collagen IV staining with vessels marked with anti-Factor VIII and examined vessel permeability in bronchial biopsies from COPD and normal subjects using albumin staining. Results. Anti-Collagen IV antibody detected more vessels in the Rbm (P = 0.002) and larger vessels in both Rbm (P < 0.001) and LP (P = 0.003) compared to Factor VIII. COPD airways had more vessels (with greater permeability) in the Rbm (P = 0.01) and fewer vessels (with normal permeability) in the LP compared to controls with both Collagen IV and Factor VIII antibodies (P = 0.04 and P = 0.01). Conclusion. Rbm vessels were increased in number and were hyperpermeable in COPD airways. Anti-Collagen IV and anti-Factor VIII antibodies did not uniformly detect the same vessel populations; the first is likely to reflect larger and older vessels with the latter reflecting smaller, younger vessels.
PMCID: PMC3303780  PMID: 22500190
15.  Evaluation of epithelial mesenchymal transition in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 
Respiratory Research  2011;12(1):130.
The reticular basement membrane (Rbm) in smokers and especially smokers with COPD is fragmented with "clefts" containing cells staining for the collagenase matrix-metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) and fibroblast protein, S100A4. These cells are also present in the basal epithelium. Such changes are likely hallmarks of epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT). We aimed to confirm the epithelial origin of these Rbm cells, and to exclude potential confounding by infiltrating inflammatory cells.
Endobronchial biopsy sections from 17 COPD current smokers, with documented Rbm splitting and cellularity were stained for neutrophil elastase (neutrophil marker), CD68 (macrophage/mature fibroblasts), CD4+/CD8+ T lymphocytes, CD19 (B-cells), CD11c (dendritic cells/inflammatory cells), and S100 (Langerhans cells). The number of cells in the Rbm and epithelium staining for these "inflammatory" cell markers were then compared to numbers staining for S100A4, "a documented EMT epitope". Slides were double stained for S100A4 and cytokeratin(s).
In the basal epithelium significantly more cells stained for S100A4 compared to infiltrating macrophages, fibroblasts or immune cells: median, 26 (21.3 - 37.3) versus 0 (0 - 9.6) per mm, p < 0.003. Markedly more S100A4 staining cells were also observed in the Rbm compared to infiltrating macrophages, neutrophils, fibroblasts or immune cells or any sub-type: 58 (37.3 - 92.6) versus 0 (0 - 4.8) cells/mm Rbm, p < 0.003. Cells in the basal epithelium 26 (21.3 - 37.3) per mm) and Rbm (5.9 (2.3 - 13.8) per mm) frequently double stained for both cytokeratin and S100A4.
These data provide additional support for active EMT in COPD airways.
PMCID: PMC3198934  PMID: 21970519
cytokeratin; clefts; epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT); inflammatory cells and S100A4
16.  Anti-IL-5 treatment reduces deposition of ECM proteins in the bronchial subepithelial basement membrane of mild atopic asthmatics 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2003;112(7):1029-1036.
Eosinophil-derived TGF-β has been implicated in remodeling events in asthma. We hypothesized that reduction of bronchial mucosal eosinophils with anti–IL-5 would reduce markers of airway remodeling. Bronchial biopsies were obtained before and after three infusions of a humanized, anti–IL-5 monoclonal antibody (mepolizumab) in 24 atopic asthmatics in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. The thickness and density of tenascin, lumican, and procollagen III in the reticular basement membrane (RBM) were quantified immunohistochemically by confocal microscopy. Expression of TGF-β1 mRNA by airway eosinophils was assessed by in situ hybridization, and TGF-β1 protein was measured in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid by ELISA. At baseline, airway eosinophil infiltration and ECM protein deposition was increased in the RBM of asthmatics compared with nonasthmatic controls. Treating asthmatics with anti–IL-5 antibody, which specifically decreased airway eosinophil numbers, significantly reduced the expression of tenascin, lumican, and procollagen III in the bronchial mucosal RBM when compared with placebo. In addition, anti–IL-5 treatment was associated with a significant reduction in the numbers and percentage of airway eosinophils expressing mRNA for TGF-β1 and the concentration of TGF-β1 in BAL fluid. Therefore eosinophils may contribute to tissue remodeling processes in asthma by regulating the deposition of ECM proteins.
PMCID: PMC198522  PMID: 14523040
17.  A randomized controlled trial of inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) on markers of epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) in large airway samples in COPD: an exploratory proof of concept study 
We recently reported that epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) is active in the airways in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), suggesting presence of an active profibrotic and promalignant stroma. With no data available on potential treatment effects, we undertook a blinded analysis of inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) effects versus placebo on EMT markers in previously obtained endobronchial biopsies in COPD patients, as a “proof of concept” study.
Assessment of the effects of inhaled fluticasone propionate (FP; 500 μg twice daily for 6 months) versus placebo in 34 COPD patients (23 on fluticasone propionate and eleven on placebo). The end points were epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR; marker of epithelial activation) and the biomarkers of EMT: reticular basement membrane (Rbm) fragmentation (“hallmark” structural marker), matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) cell expression, and S100A4 expression in basal epithelial and Rbm cells (mesenchymal transition markers).
Epithelial activation, “clefts/fragmentation” in the Rbm, and changes in the other biomarkers all regressed on ICS, at or close to conventional levels of statistical significance. From these data, we have been able to nominate primary and secondary end points and develop power calculations that would be applicable to a definitive prospective study.
Although only a pilot “proof of concept” study, this trial provided strong suggestive support for an anti-EMT effect of ICS in COPD airways. A larger and fully powered prospective study is now indicated as this issue is likely to be extremely important. Such studies may clarify the links between ICS use and better clinical outcomes and protection against lung cancer in COPD.
PMCID: PMC4043431  PMID: 24920891
pilot trial; reticular basement membrane; S100A4; EGFR; MMP-9; lung cancer
18.  Expression of the RNA-binding protein RBM3 is associated with a favourable prognosis and cisplatin sensitivity in epithelial ovarian cancer 
We recently demonstrated that increased expression of the RNA-binding protein RBM3 is associated with a favourable prognosis in breast cancer. The aim of this study was to examine the prognostic value of RBM3 mRNA and protein expression in epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) and the cisplatin response upon RBM3 depletion in a cisplatin-sensitive ovarian cancer cell line.
RBM3 mRNA expression was analysed in tumors from a cohort of 267 EOC cases (Cohort I) and RBM3 protein expression was analysed using immunohistochemistry (IHC) in an independent cohort of 154 prospectively collected EOC cases (Cohort II). Kaplan Meier analysis and Cox proportional hazards modelling were applied to assess the relationship between RBM3 and recurrence free survival (RFS) and overall survival (OS). Immunoblotting and IHC were used to examine the expression of RBM3 in a cisplatin-resistant ovarian cancer cell line A2780-Cp70 and its cisplatin-responsive parental cell line A2780. The impact of RBM3 on cisplatin response in EOC was assessed using siRNA-mediated silencing of RBM3 in A2780 cells followed by cell viability assay and cell cycle analysis.
Increased RBM3 mRNA expression was associated with a prolonged RFS (HR = 0.64, 95% CI = 0.47-0.86, p = 0.003) and OS (HR = 0.64, 95% CI = 0.44-0.95, p = 0.024) in Cohort I. Multivariate analysis confirmed that RBM3 mRNA expression was an independent predictor of a prolonged RFS, (HR = 0.61, 95% CI = 0.44-0.84, p = 0.003) and OS (HR = 0.62, 95% CI = 0.41-0.95; p = 0.028) in Cohort I. In Cohort II, RBM3 protein expression was associated with a prolonged OS (HR = 0.53, 95% CI = 0.35-0.79, p = 0.002) confirmed by multivariate analysis (HR = 0.61, 95% CI = 0.40-0.92, p = 0.017). RBM3 mRNA and protein expression levels were significantly higher in the cisplatin sensitive A2780 cell line compared to the cisplatin resistant A2780-Cp70 derivative. siRNA-mediated silencing of RBM3 expression in the A2780 cells resulted in a decreased sensitivity to cisplatin as demonstrated by increased cell viability and reduced proportion of cells arrested in the G2/M-phase.
These data demonstrate that RBM3 expression is associated with cisplatin sensitivity in vitro and with a good prognosis in EOC. Taken together these findings suggest that RBM3 may be a useful prognostic and treatment predictive marker in EOC.
PMCID: PMC2936876  PMID: 20727170
19.  Decreased expression of RNA-binding motif protein 3 correlates with tumour progression and poor prognosis in urothelial bladder cancer 
BMC Urology  2013;13:17.
Low nuclear expression of the RNA-binding motif protein 3 (RBM3) has previously been found to be associated with poor prognosis in several cancer forms e.g. breast, ovarian, colorectal, prostate cancer and malignant melanoma. The aim of this study was to examine the prognostic impact of RBM3 expression in urinary bladder cancer.
Immunohistochemical RBM3 expression was examined in tumours from 343 patients with urothelial bladder cancer. Chi-square and Spearman’s correlation tests were applied to explore associations between RBM3 expression and clinicopathological characteristics. The impact of RBM3 expression on disease-specific survival (DSS), 5-year overall survival (OS) and progression-free survival (PFS) was assessed by Kaplan-Meier analysis and Cox proportional hazards modelling.
Reduced nuclear RBM3 expression was significantly associated with more advanced tumour (T) stage (p <0.001) and high grade tumours (p=0.004). Negative RBM3 expression was associated with a significantly shorter DSS (HR=2.55; 95% CI 1.68-3.86)) and 5-year OS (HR=2.10; 95% CI 1.56-2.82), also in multivariable analysis (HR=1.65; 95% CI 1.07-2.53 for DSS and HR=1.54; 95% CI 1.13-2.10 for 5-year OS). In patients with Ta and T1 tumours expressing reduced RBM3 levels, Kaplan-Meier analysis revealed a significantly shorter PFS (p=0.048) and 5-year OS (p=0.006).
Loss of RBM3 expression is associated with clinically more aggressive tumours and an independent factor of poor prognosis in patients with urothelial bladder cancer and a potentially useful biomarker for treatment stratification and surveillance of disease progression.
PMCID: PMC3635919  PMID: 23565664
RBM3; Urothelial bladder cancer; Prognosis
20.  High expression of RNA-binding motif protein 3 in esophageal and gastric adenocarcinoma correlates with intestinal metaplasia-associated tumours and independently predicts a reduced risk of recurrence and death 
Biomarker Research  2014;2:11.
High nuclear expression of the RNA-binding motif protein 3 (RBM3) has previously been found to correlate with favourable clinicopathological characteristics and a prolonged survival in several cancer forms. Here, we examined the clinicopathological correlates and prognostic significance of RBM3 expression in tumours from a consecutive cohort of upper gastrointestinal adenocarcinoma.
Material and methods
Immunohistochemical RBM3 expression was analysed in tissue microarrays with primary radiotherapy- and chemotherapy-naive adenocarcinoma of the esophagus, gastroesophageal junction and stomach (n = 173). In addition paired samples of normal squamous epithelium (n = 53), gastric mucosa (n = 117), Barrett’s esophagus/gastric intestinal metaplasia (n = 61) and lymph node metastases (n = 71) were analysed. Kaplan-Meier analysis and Cox proportional hazards modelling was applied to assess the impact of RBM3 expression on overall survival (OS) and recurrence-free survival (RFS).
RBM3 expression was similar in primary tumours and lymph node metastases, but significantly higher in primary tumours and metastases arising in a background of intestinal metaplasia compared with cases without intestinal metaplasia (p < 0.001). RBM3 expression was significantly reduced in more advanced tumour stages (p = 0.006). Low RBM3 expression was significantly associated with a shorter OS in cases with radically resected (R0) tumours (HR 2.19, 95% CI 1.33-3.61, p = 0.002) and RFS in curatively treated patients with R0 resection/distant metastasis-free disease (HR = 3.21, 95% CI 1.64-6.30, p = 0.001). These associations remained significant in adjusted analysis (HR = 1.95, 95% CI 1.17-3.25, p = 0.010 for OS and HR = 3.02, 95% CI 1.45-6.29, p = 0.003 for RFS).
High expression of RBM3 may signify a subset of upper gastrointestinal cancers arising in a background of intestinal metaplasia and independently predicts a reduced risk of recurrence and death in patients with these cancer forms. These findings are of potential clinical utility and merit further validation.
PMCID: PMC4067631  PMID: 24963396
RBM3 expression; Prognosis; Esophageal and gastric adenocarcinoma; Intestinal metaplasia
21.  Risk factors related to persistent airflow obstruction in severe asthma in Chinese Han population 
Objective: To explore the significance of assessing persistent airway obstruction (PAO) in asthma patients by airway wall remodeling with bronchoscopy, high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT), and biological markers in the induced sputum and serum, exhaled nitric oxide (FENO), and lung function. Methods: The study was conducted in 119 patients with PAO and 125 patients with reversible airway obstruction (RAO). Endobronchial biopsy specimens were analyzed for airway smooth muscle (ASM) area, and reticular basement membrane (RBM) thickness. Airway thickness was also measured by HRCT scanning. Levels of matrix metalloproteases-9 (MMP-9), metalloproteinase 33 (ADAM33), and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) were measured in the induced sputum and serum by enzyme linked immunosorbent assay. Result: PAO was associated with longer disease duration, absence of atopy and rhinitis, and larger ASM area (SMA%) (15.83%±2.32% [n=9] vs. 8.0%±1.68% [n=7], P=0.02), thicker RBM (16.27±2.32 μm [n=9] vs. 8.71±2.41 μm [n=7], P=0.042); No differences in any of the biomarker molecules measured in airway thickness in HRCT, sputum and blood individually between groups were found. Conclusion: Severe asthma patients with longer disease duration and the absence of atopy and rhinitis are more likely to develop PAO in Chines Han population. PAO patients have increased ASM area and RBM thickness appear to be valuable in the evaluation of airway remodeling in asthma patients in Chinese Han population.
PMCID: PMC4307496  PMID: 25664049
Bronchoscopy; high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT); persistent airway obstruction (PAO); reversible airway obstruction (RAO)
22.  Post-neonatal Mortality, Morbidity, and Developmental Outcome after Ultrasound-Dated Preterm Birth in Rural Malawi: A Community-Based Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(11):e1001121.
Using data collected as a follow-up to a randomized trial, Melissa Gladstone and colleagues show that during the first two years of life, infants born preterm in southern Malawi are disadvantaged in terms of mortality, growth, and development.
Preterm birth is considered to be associated with an estimated 27% of neonatal deaths, the majority in resource-poor countries where rates of prematurity are high. There is no information on medium term outcomes after accurately determined preterm birth in such settings.
Methods and Findings
This community-based stratified cohort study conducted between May–December 2006 in Southern Malawi followed up 840 post-neonatal infants born to mothers who had received antenatal antibiotic prophylaxis/placebo in an attempt to reduce rates of preterm birth (APPLe trial ISRCTN84023116). Gestational age at delivery was based on ultrasound measurement of fetal bi-parietal diameter in early-mid pregnancy. 247 infants born before 37 wk gestation and 593 term infants were assessed at 12, 18, or 24 months. We assessed survival (death), morbidity (reported by carer, admissions, out-patient attendance), growth (weight and height), and development (Ten Question Questionnaire [TQQ] and Malawi Developmental Assessment Tool [MDAT]). Preterm infants were at significantly greater risk of death (hazard ratio 1.79, 95% CI 1.09–2.95). Surviving preterm infants were more likely to be underweight (weight-for-age z score; p<0.001) or wasted (weight-for-length z score; p<0.01) with no effect of gestational age at delivery. Preterm infants more often screened positively for disability on the Ten Question Questionnaire (p = 0.002). They also had higher rates of developmental delay on the MDAT at 18 months (p = 0.009), with gestational age at delivery (p = 0.01) increasing this likelihood. Morbidity—visits to a health centre (93%) and admissions to hospital (22%)—was similar for both groups.
During the first 2 years of life, infants who are born preterm in resource poor countries, continue to be at a disadvantage in terms of mortality, growth, and development. In addition to interventions in the immediate neonatal period, a refocus on early childhood is needed to improve outcomes for infants born preterm in low-income settings.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Being born at term in Africa is not necessarily straightforward. In Malawi, 33 of every 1,000 infants born die in the first 28 days after birth; the lifetime risk for a mother dying during or shortly after pregnancy is one in 36. The comparable figures for the United Kingdom are three infants dying per 1,000 births and a lifetime risk of maternal death of one in 4,700. But for a baby, being born preterm is even more risky and the gap between low- and high-income countries widens still further. According to a World Health Organization report in 2010, a baby born at 32 weeks of gestation (weighing around 2,000 g) in Africa has little chance of survival, while the chances of survival for a baby born at 32 weeks in North America or Europe are similar to one born at term. There are very few data on the longer term outcomes of babies born preterm in Africa and there are multiple challenges involved in gathering such information. As prenatal ultrasound is not routinely available, gestational age is often uncertain. There may be little routine follow-up of preterm babies as is commonplace in high-income countries. Data are needed from recent years that take into account both improvements in perinatal care and adverse factors such as a rising number of infants becoming HIV positive around the time of birth.
Why Was This Study Done?
We could improve outcomes for babies born preterm in sub-Saharan Africa if we understood more about what happens to them after birth. We cannot assume that the progress of these babies will be the same as those born preterm in a high-income country, as the latter group will have received different care, both before and after birth. If we can document the problems that these preterm babies face in a low-income setting, we can consider why they happen and what treatments can be realistically tested in this setting. It is also helpful to establish baseline data so that changes over time can be recorded.
The aim of this study was to document four specific outcomes up to the age of two years, on which there were few data previously from rural sub-Saharan Africa: how many babies survived, visits to a health center and admissions to the hospital, growth, and developmental delay.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers examined a group of babies that had been born to mothers who had taken part in a randomized controlled trial of an antibiotic to prevent preterm birth. The trial had previously shown that the antibiotic (azithromycin) had no effect on how many babies were born preterm or on other measures of the infants' wellbeing, and so the researchers followed up babies from both arms of the trial to look at longer term outcomes. From the original group of 2,297 women who took part in the trial, they compared 247 infants born preterm against 593 term infants randomly chosen as controls, assessed at 12, 18, or 24 months. The majority of the preterm babies who survived past a month of age (all but ten) were born after 32 weeks of gestation. Compared to the babies born at term, the infants born preterm were nearly twice as likely to die subsequently in the next two years, were more likely to be underweight (a third were moderately underweight), and to have higher rates of developmental delay. The commonest causes of death were gastroenteritis, respiratory problems, and malaria. Visits to a health center and admissions to hospital were similar in both groups.
What Do these Findings Mean?
This study documents longer term outcomes of babies born preterm in sub-Saharan Africa in detail for the first time. The strengths of the study include prenatal ultrasound dating and correct adjustment of follow-up age (which takes into account being born before term). Because the researchers defined morbidity using routine health center attendances and self-report of illnesses by parents, this outcome does not seem to have been as useful as the others in differentiating between the preterm and term babies. Better means of measuring morbidity are needed in this setting.
In the developed world, there is considerable investment being made to improve care during pregnancy and in the neonatal period. This investment in care may help by predicting which mothers are more likely to give birth early and preventing preterm birth through drug or other treatments. It is to be hoped that some of the benefit will be transferable to low-income countries. A baby born at 26 weeks' gestation and admitted to a neonatal unit in the United Kingdom has a 67% chance of survival; preterm babies born in sub-Saharan Africa face a starkly contrasting future.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
UNICEF presents useful statistics on mother and child outcomes
The World Health Organization has attempted to analyse preterm birth rates worldwide, including mapping the regional distribution and has also produced practical guides on strategies such as Kangaroo Mother Care, which can be used for the care of preterm infants in low resource settings
Healthy Newborn Network has good information on initiatives taking place to improve neonatal outcomes in low income settings
The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on research being conducted into preterm birth
Tommy's is a nonprofit organization that funds research and provides information on the risks and causes of premature birth
PMCID: PMC3210771  PMID: 22087079
23.  The microRNA expression associated with morphogenesis of breast cancer cells in three-dimensional organotypic culture 
Oncology reports  2012;28(1):117-126.
Three-dimensional organotypic culture using reconstituted basement membrane matrix Matrigel (rBM 3-D) is an indispensable tool to characterize morphogenesis of mammary epithelial cells and to elucidate the tumor-modulating actions of extracellular matrix (ECM). microRNAs (miRNAs) are a novel class of oncogenes and tumor suppressors. The majority of our current knowledge of miRNA expression and function in cancer cells is derived from monolayer 2-D culture on plastic substratum, which lacks consideration of the influence of ECM-mediated morphogenesis on miRNAs. In the present study, we compared the expression of miRNAs in rBM 3-D and 2-D cultures of the non-invasive MCF-7 and the invasive MDA-MB231 cells. Our findings revealed a profound difference in miRNA profiles between 2-D and rBM 3-D cultures within each cell type. Moreover, rBM 3-D culture exhibited greater discrimination in miRNA profiles between MCF-7 and MDA-MB231 cells than 2-D culture. The disparate miRNA profiles correlated with distinct mass morphogenesis of MCF-7 and invasive stellate morphogenesis of MDA-MB231 cells in rBM 3-D culture. Supplementation of the tumor promoting type I collagen in rBM 3-D culture substantially altered the miRNA signature of mass morphologenesis of MCF-7 cells in rBM 3-D culture. Overexpression of the differentially expressed miR-200 family member miR429 in MDA-MB231 cells attenuated their invasive stellate morphogenesis in rBM 3-D culture. In summary, we provide the first miRNA signatures of morphogenesis of human breast cancer cells in rBM 3-D culture and warrant further utilization of rBM 3-D culture in investigation of miRNAs in breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3991116  PMID: 22576799
microRNA; three-dimensional organotypic culture; extra-cellular matrix; breast cancer; morphogenesis
Cancer research  2008;68(21):8825-8831.
The U.S. population has nearly one radiographic examination per person per year and concern about cancer risks associated with medical radiation has increased. Radiologic technologists were surveyed to determine whether their personal cumulative exposure to diagnostic x-rays was associated with increased frequencies of chromosome translocations, an established radiation biomarker and possible intermediary suggesting increased cancer risk. Within a large cohort of U. S. radiologic technologists, 150 provided a blood sample for whole chromosome painting and were interviewed about past x-ray examinations. The number and types of examinations reported were converted to a red bone marrow (RBM) dose score with units that approximated 1 mGy. The relationship between dose score and chromosome translocation frequency was assessed using Poisson regression. The estimated mean cumulative RBM radiation dose score was 49 (range 0 – 303). After adjustment for age, translocation frequencies significantly increased with increasing RBM dose score with an estimate of 0.004 translocations per 100 cell equivalents per score unit (95% confidence interval 0.002 to 0.007; P < 0.001). Removing extreme values or adjustment for gender, cigarette smoking, occupational radiation dose, allowing practice x-rays while training, work with radioisotopes, and radiotherapy for benign conditions did not affect the estimate. Cumulative radiation exposure from routine x-ray examinations was associated independently with increased chromosome damage, suggesting the possibility of elevated long-term health risks, including cancer. The slope estimate was consistent with expectation based on cytogenetic experience and atomic bomb survivor data.
PMCID: PMC2586176  PMID: 18974125
Radiation exposure; diagnostic x-rays; chromosome translocations; FISH; risk factors
25.  Comparative profiling of miRNA expression of lung adenocarcinoma cells in two-dimensional and three-dimensional cultures 
Gene  2012;511(2):143-150.
Three-dimensional organotypic culture using reconstituted basement membrane matrix (rBM 3-D) is an invaluable tool to characterize morphogenesis of epithelial cells and to elucidate the tumor-modulating actions of extracellular matrix. microRNAs (miRNA) are a novel class of tumor modulating genes. A substantial amount of investigation of miRNAs in cancer is carried out using monolayer 2-D culture on plastic substratum, which lacks a consideration of the matrix-mediated regulation of miRNAs. In the current study we compared the expression of miRNAs in rBM 3-D and 2-D cultures of two lung adenocarcinoma cell lines. Our findings revealed a profound difference in miRNA profiles between 2-D and rBM 3-D cultures of lung adenocarcinoma cells. The rBM 3-D culture-specific miRNA profile was highlighted with higher expression of the tumor suppressive miRNAs (i.e., miR-200 family) and lower expression of the oncogenic miRNAs (i.e., miR-17~92 cluster and miR-21) than that of 2-D culture. Moreover, the expression pattern of miR-17, miR-21, and miR-200a in rBM 3-D culture correlated with the expression of their targets and acinar morphogenesis, a differentiation behavior of lung epithelial cells in rBM 3-D culture. Over-expression of miR-21 suppressed its target PTEN and disrupted acinar morphogenesis. In summary, we provide the first miRNA profile of lung adenocarcinoma cells in rBM 3-D culture with respect to acinar morphogenesis. These results indicate that rBM 3-D culture is essential to a comprehensive understanding of the miRNA biology in lung epithelial cells pertinent to lung adenocarcinoma.
PMCID: PMC3969815  PMID: 23036707
microRNA; three-dimensional organotypic culture; extracellular matrix; lung epithelial cells; morphogenesis

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