Several matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are involved in the pathogenesis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In mice, MMP‐12 plays a crucial role in the development of cigarette smoke induced emphysema. A study was undertaken to investigate the role of MMP‐12 in the development of COPD in human smokers.
Induced sputum samples were collected from patients with stable COPD (n = 28), healthy smokers (n = 14), never smokers (n = 20), and former smokers (n = 14). MMP‐12 protein levels in induced sputum were determined by ELISA and compared between the four study groups. MMP‐12 enzymatic activity in induced sputum was evaluated by casein zymography and by cleaving of a fluorescence quenched substrate.
Median (IQR) MMP‐12 levels were significantly higher in COPD patients than in healthy smokers, never smokers, and former smokers (17.5 (7.1–42.1) v 6.7 (3.9–10.4) v 4.2 (2.4–11.3) v 6.1 (4.5–7.6) ng/ml, p = 0.0002). MMP‐12 enzymatic activity was significantly higher in patients with COPD than in controls (4.11 (1.4–8.0) v 0.14 (0.1–0.2) μg/μl, p = 0.0002).
MMP‐12 is markedly increased in induced sputum from patients with stable COPD compared with controls, suggesting a role for MMP‐12 in the development of COPD in smokers.