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1.  LL-37-Derived Peptides Eradicate Multidrug-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus from Thermally Wounded Human Skin Equivalents 
Burn wound infections are often difficult to treat due to the presence of multidrug-resistant bacterial strains and biofilms. Currently, mupirocin is used to eradicate methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) from colonized persons; however, mupirocin resistance is also emerging. Since we consider antimicrobial peptides to be promising candidates for the development of novel anti-infective agents, we studied the antibacterial activities of a set of synthetic peptides against different strains of S. aureus, including mupirocin-resistant MRSA strains. The peptides were derived from P60.4Ac, a peptide based on the human cathelicidin LL-37. The results showed that peptide 10 (P10) was the only peptide more efficient than P60.4Ac, which is better than LL-37, in killing MRSA strain LUH14616. All three peptides displayed good antibiofilm activities. However, both P10 and P60.4Ac were more efficient than LL-37 in eliminating biofilm-associated bacteria. No toxic effects of these three peptides on human epidermal models were detected, as observed morphologically and by staining for mitochondrial activity. In addition, P60.4Ac and P10, but not LL-37, eradicated MRSA LUH14616 and the mupirocin-resistant MRSA strain LUH15051 from thermally wounded human skin equivalents (HSE). Interestingly, P60.4Ac and P10, but not mupirocin, eradicated LUH15051 from the HSEs. None of the peptides affected the excretion of interleukin 8 (IL-8) by thermally wounded HSEs upon MRSA exposure. In conclusion, the synthetic peptides P60.4Ac and P10 appear to be attractive candidates for the development of novel local therapies to treat patients with burn wounds infected with multidrug-resistant bacteria.
PMCID: PMC4136056  PMID: 24841266
2.  Genome-wide association analysis identifies six new loci associated with forced vital capacity 
Loth, Daan W. | Artigas, María Soler | Gharib, Sina A. | Wain, Louise V. | Franceschini, Nora | Koch, Beate | Pottinger, Tess | Smith, Albert Vernon | Duan, Qing | Oldmeadow, Chris | Lee, Mi Kyeong | Strachan, David P. | James, Alan L. | Huffman, Jennifer E. | Vitart, Veronique | Ramasamy, Adaikalavan | Wareham, Nicholas J. | Kaprio, Jaakko | Wang, Xin-Qun | Trochet, Holly | Kähönen, Mika | Flexeder, Claudia | Albrecht, Eva | Lopez, Lorna M. | de Jong, Kim | Thyagarajan, Bharat | Alves, Alexessander Couto | Enroth, Stefan | Omenaas, Ernst | Joshi, Peter K. | Fall, Tove | Viňuela, Ana | Launer, Lenore J. | Loehr, Laura R. | Fornage, Myriam | Li, Guo | Wilk, Jemma B. | Tang, Wenbo | Manichaikul, Ani | Lahousse, Lies | Harris, Tamara B. | North, Kari E. | Rudnicka, Alicja R. | Hui, Jennie | Gu, Xiangjun | Lumley, Thomas | Wright, Alan F. | Hastie, Nicholas D. | Campbell, Susan | Kumar, Rajesh | Pin, Isabelle | Scott, Robert A. | Pietiläinen, Kirsi H. | Surakka, Ida | Liu, Yongmei | Holliday, Elizabeth G. | Schulz, Holger | Heinrich, Joachim | Davies, Gail | Vonk, Judith M. | Wojczynski, Mary | Pouta, Anneli | Johansson, Åsa | Wild, Sarah H. | Ingelsson, Erik | Rivadeneira, Fernando | Völzke, Henry | Hysi, Pirro G. | Eiriksdottir, Gudny | Morrison, Alanna C. | Rotter, Jerome I. | Gao, Wei | Postma, Dirkje S. | White, Wendy B. | Rich, Stephen S. | Hofman, Albert | Aspelund, Thor | Couper, David | Smith, Lewis J. | Psaty, Bruce M. | Lohman, Kurt | Burchard, Esteban G. | Uitterlinden, André G. | Garcia, Melissa | Joubert, Bonnie R. | McArdle, Wendy L. | Musk, A. Bill | Hansel, Nadia | Heckbert, Susan R. | Zgaga, Lina | van Meurs, Joyce B.J. | Navarro, Pau | Rudan, Igor | Oh, Yeon-Mok | Redline, Susan | Jarvis, Deborah | Zhao, Jing Hua | Rantanen, Taina | O’Connor, George T. | Ripatti, Samuli | Scott, Rodney J. | Karrasch, Stefan | Grallert, Harald | Gaddis, Nathan C. | Starr, John M. | Wijmenga, Cisca | Minster, Ryan L. | Lederer, David J. | Pekkanen, Juha | Gyllensten, Ulf | Campbell, Harry | Morris, Andrew P. | Gläser, Sven | Hammond, Christopher J. | Burkart, Kristin M. | Beilby, John | Kritchevsky, Stephen B. | Gudnason, Vilmundur | Hancock, Dana B. | Williams, O. Dale | Polasek, Ozren | Zemunik, Tatijana | Kolcic, Ivana | Petrini, Marcy F. | Wjst, Matthias | Kim, Woo Jin | Porteous, David J. | Scotland, Generation | Smith, Blair H. | Viljanen, Anne | Heliövaara, Markku | Attia, John R. | Sayers, Ian | Hampel, Regina | Gieger, Christian | Deary, Ian J. | Boezen, H. Marike | Newman, Anne | Jarvelin, Marjo-Riitta | Wilson, James F. | Lind, Lars | Stricker, Bruno H. | Teumer, Alexander | Spector, Timothy D. | Melén, Erik | Peters, Marjolein J. | Lange, Leslie A. | Barr, R. Graham | Bracke, Ken R. | Verhamme, Fien M. | Sung, Joohon | Hiemstra, Pieter S. | Cassano, Patricia A. | Sood, Akshay | Hayward, Caroline | Dupuis, Josée | Hall, Ian P. | Brusselle, Guy G. | Tobin, Martin D. | London, Stephanie J.
Nature genetics  2014;46(7):669-677.
Forced vital capacity (FVC), a spirometric measure of pulmonary function, reflects lung volume and is used to diagnose and monitor lung diseases. We performed genome-wide association study meta-analysis of FVC in 52,253 individuals from 26 studies and followed up the top associations in 32,917 additional individuals of European ancestry. We found six new regions associated at genome-wide significance (P < 5 × 10−8) with FVC in or near EFEMP1, BMP6, MIR-129-2/HSD17B12, PRDM11, WWOX, and KCNJ2. Two (GSTCD and PTCH1) loci previously associated with spirometric measures were related to FVC. Newly implicated regions were followed-up in samples of African American, Korean, Chinese, and Hispanic individuals. We detected transcripts for all six newly implicated genes in human lung tissue. The new loci may inform mechanisms involved in lung development and pathogenesis of restrictive lung disease.
PMCID: PMC4140093  PMID: 24929828
3.  Reproducibility of exhaled nitric oxide measurements in overweight and obese adults 
BMC Research Notes  2014;7(1):775.
Exhaled nitric oxide is a noninvasive measure of airway inflammation that can be detected by a handheld device. Obesity may influence the reproducibility of exhaled nitric oxide measurements, by - for instance – decreased expiratory reserve volume.
We analyzed triple exhaled nitric oxide measurements from 553 participants (aged 45 to 65 years with a body mass index ≥27 kg/m2) of the Netherlands Epidemiology of Obesity Study. The interclass correlation coefficient (single measurement reliability) was 0.965 (95% CI: 0.960, 0.970).
We conclude that for assessment of exhaled nitric oxide in large cohorts of overweight and obese adults a single measurement suffices.
PMCID: PMC4237750  PMID: 25366981
Reproducibility; Exhaled nitric oxide; Obesity
4.  Lack of cathelicidin processing in Papillon-Lefèvre syndrome patients reveals essential role of LL-37 in periodontal homeostasis 
Loss-of-function point mutations in the cathepsin C gene are the underlying genetic event in patients with Papillon-Lefèvre syndrome (PLS). PLS neutrophils lack serine protease activity essential for cathelicidin LL-37 generation from hCAP18 precursor.
We hypothesized that a local deficiency of LL-37 in the infected periodontium is mainly responsible for one of the clinical hallmark of PLS: severe periodontitis already in early childhood.
To confirm this effect, we compared the level of neutrophil-derived enzymes and antimicrobial peptides in gingival crevicular fluid (GCF) and saliva from PLS, aggressive and chronic periodontitis patients.
Although neutrophil numbers in GCF were present at the same level in all periodontitis groups, LL-37 was totally absent in GCF from PLS patients despite the large amounts of its precursor, hCAP18. The absence of LL-37 in PLS patients coincided with the deficiency of both cathepsin C and protease 3 activities. The presence of other neutrophilic anti-microbial peptides in GCF from PLS patients, such as alpha-defensins, were comparable to that found in chronic periodontitis. In PLS microbial analysis revealed a high prevalence of Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans infection. Most strains were susceptible to killing by LL-37.
Collectively, these findings imply that the lack of protease 3 activation by dysfunctional cathepsin C in PLS patients leads to the deficit of antimicrobial and immunomodulatory functions of LL-37 in the gingiva, allowing for infection with A. actinomycetemcomitans and the development of severe periodontal disease.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13023-014-0148-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4181722  PMID: 25260376
Papillon-Lefèvre syndrome; Periodontitis; Cathepsin C; Proteinase 3; Cathelicidin LL-37
5.  Recent advances in alveolar biology: Evolution and function of alveolar proteins☆ 
This review is focused on the evolution and function of alveolar proteins. The lung faces physical and environmental challenges, due to changing pressures/volumes and foreign pathogens, respectively. The pulmonary surfactant system is integral in protecting the lung from these challenges via two groups of surfactant proteins – the small molecular weight hydrophobic SPs, SP-B and -C, that regulate interfacial adsorption of the lipids, and the large hydrophilic SPs, SP-A and -D, which are surfactant collectins capable of inhibiting foreign pathogens. Further aiding pulmonary host defence are non-surfactant collectins and antimicrobial peptides that are expressed across the biological kingdoms. Linking to the first symposium session, which emphasised molecular structure and biophysical function of surfactant lipids and proteins, this review begins with a discussion of the role of temperature and hydrostatic pressure in shaping the evolution of SP-C in mammals. Transitioning to the role of the alveolus in innate host defence we discuss the structure, function and regulation of antimicrobial peptides, the defensins and cathelicidins. We describe the recent discovery of novel avian collectins and provide evidence for their role in preventing influenza infection. This is followed by discussions of the roles of SP-A and SP-D in mediating host defence at the alveolar surface and in mediating inflammation and the allergic response of the airways. Finally we discuss the use of animal models of lung disease including knockouts to develop an understanding of the role of these proteins in initiating and/or perpetuating disease with the aim of developing new therapeutic strategies.
PMCID: PMC4097100  PMID: 20433956
Surfactant proteins; SP-A; SP-C; SP-D; Binding affinity; Oligomerization; Deficiency; Alveolar proteins; Collectins; Cathelicidins; Defensins; Innate host defence; Hemagglutination inhibition activity; Bacterial aggregation; Pro-inflammatory response; Anti-inflammatory response; Airways; Allergic response; Sensitization; Surfactant homeostasis; Alveolar lipoproteinosis; Type II cell hypertrophy and hyperplasia; Lamellar body size and number
6.  Hepatocyte-specific IKKβ expression aggravates atherosclerosis development in APOE*3-Leiden mice 
Atherosclerosis  2011;220(2):362-368.
The liver is the key organ involved in systemic inflammation, but the relation between hepatic inflammation and atherogenesis is poorly understood. Since nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) is a central regulator of inflammatory processes, we hypothesized that chronically enhanced hepatic NF-κB activation, through hepatocyte-specific expression of IκB kinase-β (IKKβ) (LIKK), will aggravate atherosclerosis development in APOE*3-Leiden (E3L) mice.
Methods and Results
E3L.LIKK and E3L control littermates were fed a Western-type diet for 24 weeks. E3L.LIKK mice showed a 2.3-fold increased atherosclerotic lesion area and more advanced atherosclerosis in the aortic root with less segments without atherosclerotic lesions (11 vs. 42%), and more segments with mild (63% vs. 44%) and severe (26% vs. 14 %) lesions. Expression of LIKK did not affect basal levels of inflammatory parameters, but plasma cytokine levels tended to be higher in E3L.LIKK mice after lipopolysaccharide (LPS) administration. E3L.LIKK mice showed transiently increased plasma cholesterol levels, confined to (V)LDL. This transient character resulted in a mild (+17%) increased cumulative plasma cholesterol exposure.
We conclude that selective activation of NF-κB in hepatocytes considerably promotes atherosclerosis development which is (at least partly) explained by an increased sensitivity to proinflammatory triggers and transiently increased plasma cholesterol levels.
PMCID: PMC4097174  PMID: 21798539
NF-κB; atherosclerosis; mouse models; liver; hepatocyte; inflammation; lipid metabolism
7.  A Dynamic Bronchial Airway Gene Expression Signature of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Lung Function Impairment 
Rationale: Molecular phenotyping of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has been impeded in part by the difficulty in obtaining lung tissue samples from individuals with impaired lung function.
Objectives: We sought to determine whether COPD-associated processes are reflected in gene expression profiles of bronchial airway epithelial cells obtained by bronchoscopy.
Methods: Gene expression profiling of bronchial brushings obtained from 238 current and former smokers with and without COPD was performed using Affymetrix Human Gene 1.0 ST Arrays.
Measurements and Main Results: We identified 98 genes whose expression levels were associated with COPD status, FEV1% predicted, and FEV1/FVC. In silico analysis identified activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4) as a potential transcriptional regulator of genes with COPD-associated airway expression, and ATF4 overexpression in airway epithelial cells in vitro recapitulates COPD-associated gene expression changes. Genes with COPD-associated expression in the bronchial airway epithelium had similarly altered expression profiles in prior studies performed on small-airway epithelium and lung parenchyma, suggesting that transcriptomic alterations in the bronchial airway epithelium reflect molecular events found at more distal sites of disease activity. Many of the airway COPD-associated gene expression changes revert toward baseline after therapy with the inhaled corticosteroid fluticasone in independent cohorts.
Conclusions: Our findings demonstrate a molecular field of injury throughout the bronchial airway of active and former smokers with COPD that may be driven in part by ATF4 and is modifiable with therapy. Bronchial airway epithelium may ultimately serve as a relatively accessible tissue in which to measure biomarkers of disease activity for guiding clinical management of COPD.
PMCID: PMC3707363  PMID: 23471465
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; gene expression profiling; biologic markers
8.  Susceptibility to Chronic Mucus Hypersecretion, a Genome Wide Association Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e91621.
Chronic mucus hypersecretion (CMH) is associated with an increased frequency of respiratory infections, excess lung function decline, and increased hospitalisation and mortality rates in the general population. It is associated with smoking, but it is unknown why only a minority of smokers develops CMH. A plausible explanation for this phenomenon is a predisposing genetic constitution. Therefore, we performed a genome wide association (GWA) study of CMH in Caucasian populations.
GWA analysis was performed in the NELSON-study using the Illumina 610 array, followed by replication and meta-analysis in 11 additional cohorts. In total 2,704 subjects with, and 7,624 subjects without CMH were included, all current or former heavy smokers (≥20 pack-years). Additional studies were performed to test the functional relevance of the most significant single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP).
A strong association with CMH, consistent across all cohorts, was observed with rs6577641 (p = 4.25×10−6, OR = 1.17), located in intron 9 of the special AT-rich sequence-binding protein 1 locus (SATB1) on chromosome 3. The risk allele (G) was associated with higher mRNA expression of SATB1 (4.3×10−9) in lung tissue. Presence of CMH was associated with increased SATB1 mRNA expression in bronchial biopsies from COPD patients. SATB1 expression was induced during differentiation of primary human bronchial epithelial cells in culture.
Our findings, that SNP rs6577641 is associated with CMH in multiple cohorts and is a cis-eQTL for SATB1, together with our additional observation that SATB1 expression increases during epithelial differentiation provide suggestive evidence that SATB1 is a gene that affects CMH.
PMCID: PMC3979657  PMID: 24714607
9.  Steroid Resistance in COPD? Overlap and Differential Anti-Inflammatory Effects in Smokers and Ex-Smokers 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e87443.
Inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) reduce exacerbation rates and improve health status but can increase the risk of pneumonia in COPD. The GLUCOLD study, investigating patients with mild-to-moderate COPD, has shown that long-term (2.5-year) ICS therapy induces anti-inflammatory effects. The literature suggests that cigarette smoking causes ICS insensitivity. The aim of this study is to compare anti-inflammatory effects of ICS in persistent smokers and persistent ex-smokers in a post-hoc analysis of the GLUCOLD study.
Persistent smokers (n = 41) and persistent ex-smokers (n = 31) from the GLUCOLD cohort were investigated. Effects of ICS treatment compared with placebo were estimated by analysing changes in lung function, hyperresponsiveness, and inflammatory cells in sputum and bronchial biopsies during short-term (0–6 months) and long-term (6–30 months) treatment using multiple regression analyses.
Bronchial mast cells were reduced by short-term and long-term ICS treatment in both smokers and ex-smokers. In contrast, CD3+, CD4+, and CD8+ cells were reduced by short-term ICS treatment in smokers only. In addition, sputum neutrophils and lymphocytes, and bronchial CD8+ cells were reduced after long-term treatment in ex-smokers only. No significant interactions existed between smoking and ICS treatment.
Even in the presence of smoking, long-term ICS treatment may lead to anti-inflammatory effects in the lung. Some anti-inflammatory ICS effects are comparable in smokers and ex-smokers with COPD, other effects are cell-specific. The clinical relevance of these findings, however, are uncertain.
PMCID: PMC3914834  PMID: 24505290
10.  pH in exhaled breath condensate and nasal lavage as a biomarker of air pollution-related inflammation in street traffic-controllers and office-workers 
Clinics  2013;68(12):1488-1494.
To utilize low-cost and simple methods to assess airway and lung inflammation biomarkers related to air pollution.
A total of 87 male, non-smoking, healthy subjects working as street traffic-controllers or office-workers were examined to determine carbon monoxide in exhaled breath and to measure the pH in nasal lavage fluid and exhaled breath condensate. Air pollution exposure was measured by particulate matter concentration, and data were obtained from fixed monitoring stations (8-h work intervals per day, during the 5 consecutive days prior to the study).
Exhaled carbon monoxide was two-fold greater in traffic-controllers than in office-workers. The mean pH values were 8.12 in exhaled breath condensate and 7.99 in nasal lavage fluid in office-workers; these values were lower in traffic-controllers (7.80 and 7.30, respectively). Both groups presented similar cytokines concentrations in both substrates, however, IL-1β and IL-8 were elevated in nasal lavage fluid compared with exhaled breath condensate. The particulate matter concentration was greater at the workplace of traffic-controllers compared with that of office-workers.
The pH values of nasal lavage fluid and exhaled breath condensate are important, robust, easy to measure and reproducible biomarkers that can be used to monitor occupational exposure to air pollution. Additionally, traffic-controllers are at an increased risk of airway and lung inflammation during their occupational activities compared with office-workers.
PMCID: PMC3840367  PMID: 24473505
Exhaled Breath Condensate; Nasal Lavage Fluid; Air Pollution; Airway Inflammation
11.  The Effect of PPE-Induced Emphysema and Chronic LPS-Induced Pulmonary Inflammation on Atherosclerosis Development in APOE*3-LEIDEN Mice 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80196.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is characterized by pulmonary inflammation, airways obstruction and emphysema, and is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, the contribution of these individual COPD components to this increased risk is unknown. Therefore, the aim of this study was to determine the contribution of emphysema in the presence or absence of pulmonary inflammation to the increased risk of CVD, using a mouse model for atherosclerosis. Because smoke is a known risk factor for both COPD and CVD, emphysema was induced by intratracheal instillation of porcine pancreatic elastase (PPE).
Hyperlipidemic APOE*3-Leiden mice were intratracheally instilled with vehicle, 15 or 30 µg PPE and after 4 weeks, mice received a Western-type diet (WTD). To study the effect of emphysema combined with pulmonary inflammation on atherosclerosis, mice received 30 µg PPE and during WTD feeding, mice were intranasally instilled with vehicle or low-dose lipopolysaccharide (LPS; 1 µg/mouse, twice weekly). After 20 weeks WTD, mice were sacrificed and emphysema, pulmonary inflammation and atherosclerosis were analysed.
Intratracheal PPE administration resulted in a dose-dependent increase in emphysema, whereas atherosclerotic lesion area was not affected by PPE treatment. Additional low-dose intranasal LPS administration induced a low-grade systemic IL-6 response, as compared to vehicle. Combining intratracheal PPE with intranasal LPS instillation significantly increased the number of pulmonary macrophages and neutrophils. Plasma lipids during the study were not different. LPS instillation caused a limited, but significant increase in the atherosclerotic lesion area. This increase was not further enhanced by PPE.
This study shows for the first time that PPE-induced emphysema both in the presence and absence of pulmonary inflammation does not affect atherosclerotic lesion development.
PMCID: PMC3841138  PMID: 24303000
12.  Increased ERK signalling promotes inflammatory signalling in primary airway epithelial cells expressing Z α1-antitrypsin 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(4):929-941.
Overexpression of Z α1-antitrypsin is known to induce polymer formation, prime the cells for endoplasmic reticulum stress and initiate nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) signalling. However, whether endogenous expression in primary bronchial epithelial cells has similar consequences remains unclear. Moreover, the mechanism of NF-κB activation has not yet been elucidated. Here, we report excessive NF-κB signalling in resting primary bronchial epithelial cells from ZZ patients compared with wild-type (MM) controls, and this appears to be mediated by mitogen-activated protein/extracellular signal-regulated kinase, EGF receptor and ADAM17 activity. Moreover, we show that rather than being a response to protein polymers, NF-κB signalling in airway-derived cells represents a loss of anti-inflammatory signalling by M α1-antitrypsin. Treatment of ZZ primary bronchial epithelial cells with purified plasma M α1-antitrypsin attenuates this inflammatory response, opening up new therapeutic options to modulate airway inflammation in the lung.
PMCID: PMC4007119  PMID: 24097797
13.  Increase in Net Activity of Serine Proteinases but Not Gelatinases after Local Endotoxin Exposure in the Peripheral Airways of Healthy Subjects 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e75032.
We tested the hypothesis that activation of the innate immune response induces an imbalance in the proteolytic homeostasis in the peripheral airways of healthy subjects, towards excess serine or gelatinase proteinase activity. During bronchoscopy, 18 healthy human subjects underwent intra-bronchial exposure to endotoxin and contra-lateral exposure to vehicle. Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) samples were harvested 24 or 48 hours (h) later. We quantified archetype proteinases, anti-proteinases, inflammatory BAL cells, and, importantly, total plus net proteinase activities using functional substrate assays. As expected, endotoxin exposure increased the concentrations of polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMN's) and macrophages, of proteinases and the anti-proteinases tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-1, α-1-antitrypsin and, to a lesser extent, secretory leukoproteinase inhibitor, at both time points. Notably, at these time points, endotoxin exposure substantially increased the quantitative NE/SLPI ratio and the net serine proteinase activity corresponding to neutrophil elastase (NE). Endotoxin exposure also increased the total gelatinase activity corresponding to matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-9; an activity dominating over that of MMP-2. However, endotoxin exposure had no impact on net gelatinolytic activity at 24 or 48 h after exposure. Thus, local activation of the innate immune response induces an imbalance towards increased net serine proteinase activity in the proteolytic homeostasis of the peripheral airways in healthy subjects. Hypothetically, this serine proteinase activity can contribute to tissue remodelling and hypersecretion via NE from PMN's, if it is triggered repeatedly, as might be the case in chronic inflammatory airway disorders.
PMCID: PMC3781029  PMID: 24086430
14.  Inhaled Steroids Modulate Extracellular Matrix Composition in Bronchial Biopsies of COPD Patients: A Randomized, Controlled Trial 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63430.
Smoking and inflammation contribute to the pathogenesis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which involves changes in extracellular matrix. This is thought to contribute to airway remodeling and airflow obstruction. We have previously observed that long-term treatment with inhaled corticosteroids can not only reduce bronchial inflammation, but can also attenuate lung function decline in moderate-severe COPD. We hypothesized that inhaled corticosteroids and current smoking modulate bronchial extracellular matrix components in COPD.
To compare major extracellular matrix components (elastic fibers; proteoglycans [versican, decorin]; collagens type I and III) in bronchial biopsies 1) after 30-months inhaled steroids treatment or placebo; and 2) between current and ex-smokers with COPD.
We included 64 moderate-severe, steroid-naive COPD patients (24/40 (ex)-smokers, 62±7 years, 46 (31–54) packyears, post-bronchodilator forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) 62±9% predicted) at baseline in this randomized, controlled trial. 19 and 13 patients received 30-months treatment with fluticasone or placebo, respectively. Bronchial biopsies collected at baseline and after 30 months were studied using (immuno)histochemistry to evaluate extracellular matrix content. Percentage and density of stained area were calculated by digital image analysis.
30-Months inhaled steroids increased the percentage stained area of versican (9.6% [CI 0.9 to 18.3%]; p = 0.03) and collagen III (20.6% [CI 3.8 to 37.4%]; p = 0.02) compared to placebo. Increased collagen I staining density correlated with increased post-bronchodilator FEV1 after inhaled steroids treatment (Rs = 0.45, p = 0.04). There were no differences between smokers and ex-smokers with COPD in percentages and densities for all extracellular matrix proteins.
These data show that long-term inhaled corticosteroids treatment partially changes the composition of extracellular matrix in moderate-severe COPD. This is associated with increased lung function, suggesting that long-term inhaled steroids modulate airway remodeling thereby potentially preventing airway collapse in COPD. Smoking status is not associated with bronchial extracellular matrix proteins.
Trial Registration NCT00158847
PMCID: PMC3646783  PMID: 23667615
15.  Systemic Inflammation and Lung Function Impairment in Morbidly Obese Subjects with the Metabolic Syndrome 
Journal of Obesity  2013;2013:131349.
Background. Obesity and asthma are associated. There is a relationship between lung function impairment and the metabolic syndrome. Whether this relationship also exists in the morbidly obese patients is still unknown. Hypothesis. Low-grade systemic inflammation associated with the metabolic syndrome causes inflammation in the lungs and, hence, lung function impairment. Methods. This is cross-sectional study of morbidly obese patients undergoing preoperative screening for bariatric surgery. Metabolic syndrome was assessed according to the revised NCEP-ATP III criteria. Results. A total of 452 patients were included. Patients with the metabolic syndrome (n = 293) had significantly higher blood monocyte (mean 5.3 versus 4.9, P = 0.044) and eosinophil percentages (median 1.0 versus 0.8, P = 0.002), while the total leukocyte count did not differ between the groups. The FEV1/FVC ratio was significantly lower in patients with the metabolic syndrome (76.7% versus 78.2%, P = 0.032). Blood eosinophils were associated with FEV1/FVC ratio (adj. B −0.113, P = 0.018). Conclusion. Although the difference in FEV1/FVC ratio between the groups is relatively small, in this cross-sectional study, and its clinical relevance may be limited, these data indicate that the presence of the metabolic syndrome may influence lung function impairment, through the induction of relative eosinophilia.
PMCID: PMC3595660  PMID: 23509614
16.  Toll-Like Receptor (TLR2 and TLR4) Polymorphisms and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e43124.
Toll-like receptors (TLRs) participate in the defence against bacterial infections that are common in patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). We studied all tagging SNPs in TLR2 and TLR4 and their associations with the level and change over time of both FEV1 and sputum inflammatory cells in moderate-to-severe COPD. Nine TLR2 SNPs and 17 TLR4 SNPs were genotyped in 110 COPD patients. Associations of SNPs with lung function and inflammatory cells in induced sputum were analyzed cross-sectionally with linear regression and longitudinally with linear mixed-effect models. Two SNPs in TLR2 (rs1898830 and rs11938228) were associated with a lower level of FEV1 and accelerated decline of FEV1 and higher numbers of sputum inflammatory cells. None of the TLR4 SNPs was associated with FEV1 level. Eleven out of 17 SNPs were associated with FEV1 decline, including rs12377632 and rs10759931, which were additionally associated with higher numbers of sputum inflammatory cells at baseline and with increase over time. This is the first longitudinal study showing that tagging SNPs in TLR2 and TLR4 are associated with the level and decline of lung function as well as with inflammatory cell numbers in induced sputum in COPD patients, suggesting a role in the severity and progression of COPD.
PMCID: PMC3429472  PMID: 22952638
17.  Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Is Associated with Low Levels of Vitamin D 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e38934.
COPD patients may be at increased risk for vitamin D (25(OH)D) deficiency, but risk factors for deficiency among COPD patients have not been extensively reported.
Serum 25(OH)D levels were measured by liquid chromatography double mass spectrometry in subjects aged 40–76 years from Western Norway, including 433 COPD patients (GOLD stage II-IV) and 325 controls. Levels <20 ng/mL defined deficiency. Season, sex, age, body mass index (BMI), smoking, GOLD stage, exacerbation frequency, arterial oxygen tension (PaO2), respiratory symptoms, depression (CES-D score≥16), comorbidities (Charlson score), treatment for osteoporosis, use of inhaled steroids, and total white blood count were examined for associations with 25(OH)D in both linear and logistic regression models.
COPD patients had an increased risk for vitamin D deficiency compared to controls after adjustment for seasonality, age, smoking and BMI. Variables associated with lower 25(OH)D levels in COPD patients were obesity ( = −6.63), current smoking ( = −4.02), GOLD stage III- IV ( = −4.71, = −5.64), and depression ( = −3.29). Summertime decreased the risk of vitamin D deficiency (OR = 0.22).
COPD was associated with an increased risk of vitamin D deficiency, and important disease characteristics were significantly related to 25(OH)D levels.
PMCID: PMC3380863  PMID: 22737223
18.  Profiling the Proteome of Exhaled Breath Condensate in Healthy Smokers and COPD Patients by LC-MS/MS 
Three pools of exhaled breath condensate (EBC) from non-smokers plus healthy smokers (NS + HS, n = 45); chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) without emphysema (COPD, n = 15) and subjects with pulmonary emphysema associated with α1-antitrypsin deficiency (AATD, n = 23) were used for an exploratory proteomic study aimed at generating fingerprints of these groups that can be used in future pathophysiological and perhaps even clinical research. Liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) was the platform applied for this hypothesis-free investigation. Analysis of pooled specimens resulted in the production of a “fingerprint” made of 44 proteins for NS/HS; 17 for COPD and 15 for the group of AATD subjects. Several inflammatory cytokines (IL-1α, IL-1β, IL-2; IL-12, α and β subunits, IL-15, interferon α and γ, tumor necrosis factor α); Type I and II cytokeratins; two SP-A isoforms; Calgranulin A and B and α1-antitrypsin were detected and validated through the use of surface enhanced laser-desorption ionization mass spectrometry (SELDI-MS) and/or by Western blot (WB) analysis. These results are the prelude of quantitative studies aimed at identifying which of these proteins hold promise as identifiers of differences that could distinguish healthy subjects from patients.
PMCID: PMC3509556  PMID: 23203040
EBC; COPD; proteomics; LC-MS/MS
19.  Difference in symptom severity between early and late grass pollen season in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis 
For the development of forecasts for seasonal allergic rhinitis symptoms, it is essential to understand the relationship between grass pollen concentrations and the symptoms of grass pollen allergic patients.
The aim of this study was to delineate this relationship between seasonal allergic rhinitis symptoms and grass pollen concentrations in the Netherlands.
Grass pollen allergic patients (n = 80 [2007] - 84 [2008]) were enrolled into the study. They were asked to enter their seasonal allergic rhinitis symptoms (runny nose, sneezing, blocked nose, post nasal drip, and eye symptoms) daily on a scale from 0 to 3 to the study centre either by short message service (SMS) or by internet from May-July 2007 and April-July 2008. Daily pollen counts were used to define the early and the late grass pollen season as the period 'before and during' respectively 'after' the first grass pollen peak (more than 150 pollen/m3).
At similar grass pollen concentrations, the daily mean of the individual maximum symptom scores reported in the early season were higher as compared to that reported in the late season [differences of -0.41 (2007) and -0.30 (2008)]. This difference could not be explained by medication use by the patients nor by co-sensitization to birch.
We conclude that seasonal allergic rhinitis symptoms at similar grass pollen concentrations are more severe in the early flowering season as compared to those in the late flowering season. This finding is not only relevant for development of forecasts for seasonal allergic rhinitis symptoms but also for understanding symptom development and planning and analysis of clinical studies.
PMCID: PMC3339365  PMID: 22410160
Allergic rhinitis; grass pollen; seasonal allergic rhinitis; symptoms; seasonal variation
20.  A quantitative method for detection of spliced X-box binding protein-1 (XBP1) mRNA as a measure of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress 
Cell Stress & Chaperones  2011;17(2):275-279.
Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress is increasingly recognized as an important mechanism in a wide range of diseases including cystic fibrosis, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. Therefore, there is an increased need for reliable and quantitative markers for detection of ER stress in human tissues and cells. Accumulation of unfolded or misfolded proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum can cause ER stress, which leads to the activation of the unfolded protein response (UPR). UPR signaling involves splicing of X-box binding protein-1 (XBP1) mRNA, which is frequently used as a marker for ER stress. In most studies, the splicing of the XBP1 mRNA is visualized by gel electrophoresis which is laborious and difficult to quantify. In the present study, we have developed and validated a quantitative real-time RT-PCR method to detect the spliced form of XBP1 mRNA.
PMCID: PMC3273559  PMID: 22038282
ER stress; Spliced XBP1; Real-time RT-PCR; BiP; CHOP; Primary bronchial epithelial cells
21.  IL-4 and IL-13 exposure during mucociliary differentiation of bronchial epithelial cells increases antimicrobial activity and expression of antimicrobial peptides 
Respiratory Research  2011;12(1):59.
The airway epithelium forms a barrier against infection but also produces antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) and other inflammatory mediators to activate the immune system. It has been shown that in allergic disorders, Th2 cytokines may hamper the antimicrobial activity of the epithelium. However, the presence of Th2 cytokines also affects the composition of the epithelial layer which may alter its function. Therefore, we investigated whether exposure of human primary bronchial epithelial cells (PBEC) to Th2 cytokines during mucociliary differentiation affects expression of the human cathelicidin antimicrobial protein (hCAP18)/LL-37 and human beta defensins (hBD), and antimicrobial activity.
PBEC were cultured at an air-liquid interface (ALI) for two weeks in the presence of various concentrations of IL-4 or IL-13. Changes in differentiation and in expression of various AMPs and the antimicrobial proteinase inhibitors secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor (SLPI) and elafin were investigated as well as antimicrobial activity.
IL-4 and IL-13 increased mRNA expression of hCAP18/LL-37 and hBD-2. Dot blot analysis also showed an increase in hCAP18/LL-37 protein in apical washes of IL-4-treated ALI cultures, whereas Western Blot analysis showed expression of a protein of approximately 4.5 kDa in basal medium of IL-4-treated cultures. Using sandwich ELISA we found that also hBD-2 in apical washes was increased by both IL-4 and IL-13. SLPI and elafin levels were not affected by IL-4 or IL-13 at the mRNA or protein level. Apical wash obtained from IL-4- and IL-13-treated cultures displayed increased antimicrobial activity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa compared to medium-treated cultures. In addition, differentiation in the presence of Th2 cytokines resulted in increased MUC5AC production as has been shown previously.
These data suggest that prolonged exposure to Th2 cytokines during mucociliary differentiation contributes to antimicrobial defence by increasing the expression and release of selected antimicrobial peptides and mucus.
PMCID: PMC3113720  PMID: 21529380
human; lung; cell differentiation; allergy; inflammation
22.  Smoking status and anti-inflammatory macrophages in bronchoalveolar lavage and induced sputum in COPD 
Respiratory Research  2011;12(1):34.
Macrophages have been implicated in the pathogenesis of COPD. M1 and M2 macrophages constitute subpopulations displaying pro- and anti-inflammatory properties. We hypothesized that smoking cessation affects macrophage heterogeneity in the lung of patients with COPD. Our aim was to study macrophage heterogeneity using the M2-marker CD163 and selected pro- and anti-inflammatory mediators in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid and induced sputum from current smokers and ex-smokers with COPD.
114 COPD patients (72 current smokers; 42 ex-smokers, median smoking cessation 3.5 years) were studied cross-sectionally and underwent sputum induction (M/F 99/15, age 62 ± 8 [mean ± SD] years, 42 (31-55) [median (range)] packyears, post-bronchodilator FEV1 63 ± 9% predicted, no steroids past 6 months). BAL was collected from 71 patients. CD163+ macrophages were quantified in BAL and sputum cytospins. Pro- and anti-inflammatory mediators were measured in BAL and sputum supernatants.
Ex-smokers with COPD had a higher percentage, but lower number of CD163+ macrophages in BAL than current smokers (83.5% and 68.0%, p = 0.04; 5.6 and 20.1 ×104/ml, p = 0.001 respectively). The percentage CD163+ M2 macrophages was higher in BAL compared to sputum (74.0% and 30.3%, p < 0.001). BAL M-CSF levels were higher in smokers than ex-smokers (571 pg/ml and 150 pg/ml, p = 0.001) and correlated with the number of CD163+ BAL macrophages (Rs = 0.38, p = 0.003). No significant differences were found between smokers and ex-smokers in the levels of pro-inflammatory (IL-6 and IL-8), and anti-inflammatory (elafin, and Secretory Leukocyte Protease Inhibitor [SLPI]) mediators in BAL and sputum.
Our data suggest that smoking cessation partially changes the macrophage polarization in vivo in the periphery of the lung towards an anti-inflammatory phenotype, which is not accompanied by a decrease in inflammatory parameters.
PMCID: PMC3072953  PMID: 21426578
23.  The role of IREB2 and transforming growth factor beta-1 genetic variants in COPD: a replication case-control study 
BMC Medical Genetics  2011;12:24.
Genetic factors are known to contribute to COPD susceptibility and these factors are not fully understood. Conflicting results have been reported for many genetic studies of candidate genes based on their role in the disease. Genome-wide association studies in combination with expression profiling have identified a number of new candidates including IREB2. A meta-analysis has implicated transforming growth factor beta-1 (TGFbeta1) as a contributor to disease susceptibility.
We have examined previously reported associations in both genes in a collection of 1017 white COPD patients and 912 non-diseased smoking controls. Genotype information was obtained for seven SNPs in the IREB2 gene, and for four SNPs in the TGFbeta1 gene. Allele and genotype frequencies were compared between COPD cases and controls, and odds ratios were calculated. The analysis was adjusted for age, sex, smoking and centre, including interactions of age, sex and smoking with centre.
Our data replicate the association of IREB2 SNPs in association with COPD for SNP rs2568494, rs2656069 and rs12593229 with respective adjusted p-values of 0.0018, 0.0039 and 0.0053. No significant associations were identified for TGFbeta1.
These studies have therefore confirmed that the IREB2 locus is a contributor to COPD susceptibility and suggests a new pathway in COPD pathogenesis invoking iron homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC3047296  PMID: 21320324
24.  Reduction in sputum neutrophil and eosinophil numbers by the PDE4 inhibitor roflumilast in patients with COPD 
Thorax  2007;62(12):1081-1087.
Roflumilast is a targeted oral once‐daily administered phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE4) inhibitor with clinical efficacy in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Results from in vitro studies with roflumilast indicate that it has anti‐inflammatory properties that may be applicable for the treatment of COPD.
In a crossover study, 38 patients with COPD (mean (SD) age 63.1 (7.0) years, post‐bronchodilator forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) 61.0 (12.6)% predicted) received 500 μg roflumilast or placebo once daily for 4 weeks. Induced sputum samples were collected before and after 2 and 4 weeks of treatment. Differential and absolute cell counts were determined in whole sputum samples. Markers of inflammation were determined in sputum supernatants and blood. Spirometry was performed weekly.
Roflumilast significantly reduced the absolute number of neutrophils and eosinophils/g sputum compared with placebo by 35.5% (95% CI 15.6% to 50.7%; p = 0.002) and 50.0% (95% CI 26.8% to 65.8%; p<0.001), respectively. The relative proportion of sputum neutrophils and eosinophils was not affected by treatment (p>0.05). Levels of soluble interleukin‐8, neutrophil elastase, eosinophil cationic protein and α2‐macroglobulin in sputum and the release of tumour necrosis factor α from blood cells were significantly reduced by roflumilast compared with placebo treatment (p<0.05 for all). Post‐bronchodilator FEV1 improved significantly during roflumilast compared with placebo treatment with a mean difference between treatments of 68.7 ml (95% CI 12.9 to 124.5; p = 0.018).
PDE4 inhibition by roflumilast treatment for 4 weeks reduced the number of neutrophils and eosinophils, as well as soluble markers of neutrophilic and eosinophilic inflammatory activity in induced sputum samples of patients with COPD. This anti‐inflammatory effect may in part explain the concomitant improvement in post‐bronchodilator FEV1.
PMCID: PMC2094292  PMID: 17573446
25.  Pro-inflammatory mechanisms of muscarinic receptor stimulation in airway smooth muscle 
Respiratory Research  2010;11(1):130.
Acetylcholine, the primary parasympathetic neurotransmitter in the airways, plays an important role in bronchoconstriction and mucus production. Recently, it has been shown that acetylcholine, by acting on muscarinic receptors, is also involved in airway inflammation and remodelling. The mechanism(s) by which muscarinic receptors regulate inflammatory responses are, however, still unknown.
The present study was aimed at characterizing the effect of muscarinic receptor stimulation on cytokine secretion by human airway smooth muscle cells (hASMc) and to dissect the intracellular signalling mechanisms involved. hASMc expressing functional muscarinic M2 and M3 receptors were stimulated with the muscarinic receptor agonist methacholine, alone, and in combination with cigarette smoke extract (CSE), TNF-α, PDGF-AB or IL-1β.
Muscarinic receptor stimulation induced modest IL-8 secretion by itself, yet augmented IL-8 secretion in combination with CSE, TNF-α or PDGF-AB, but not with IL-1β. Pretreatment with GF109203X, a protein kinase C (PKC) inhibitor, completely normalized the effect of methacholine on CSE-induced IL-8 secretion, whereas PMA, a PKC activator, mimicked the effects of methacholine, inducing IL-8 secretion and augmenting the effects of CSE. Similar inhibition was observed using inhibitors of IκB-kinase-2 (SC514) and MEK1/2 (U0126), both downstream effectors of PKC. Accordingly, western blot analysis revealed that methacholine augmented the degradation of IκBα and the phosphorylation of ERK1/2 in combination with CSE, but not with IL-1β in hASMc.
We conclude that muscarinic receptors facilitate CSE-induced IL-8 secretion by hASMc via PKC dependent activation of IκBα and ERK1/2. This mechanism could be of importance for COPD patients using anticholinergics.
PMCID: PMC2955662  PMID: 20875145

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