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1.  The H Antigen at Epithelial Surfaces Is Associated with Susceptibility to Asthma Exacerbation 
Rationale: Acute asthma exacerbations, precipitated by viral infections, are a significant cause of morbidity, but not all patients with asthma are equally susceptible.
Objectives: To explore susceptibility factors for asthma exacerbations, we considered a role for histoblood group antigens because they are implicated in mechanisms of gastrointestinal viral infection, specifically the O-secretor mucin glycan phenotype. We investigated if this phenotype is associated with susceptibility to asthma exacerbation.
Methods: We performed two consecutive case-control studies in subjects with asthma who were either prone or resistant to asthma exacerbations. Exacerbation-prone cases had frequent use of prednisone for an asthma exacerbation and frequent asthma-related healthcare utilization, whereas exacerbation-resistant control subjects had rarely reported asthma exacerbations. The frequency of different mucin glycan phenotypes, defined by the presence or absence of H (O), A, B, or AB antigens, was compared in cases and control subjects.
Measurements and Main Results: In an initial study consisting of 49 subjects with asthma (23 cases and 26 control subjects), we found that having the O-secretor phenotype was associated with a 5.8-fold increase in the odds of being a case (95% confidence interval, 1.7–21.0; P = 0.006). In a replication study consisting of 204 subjects with asthma (101 cases and 103 control subjects), we found that having the O-secretor phenotype was associated with a 2.3-fold increased odds of being a case (95% confidence interval, 1.2–4.4; P = 0.02).
Conclusions: The O-secretor mucin glycan phenotype is associated with susceptibility to asthma exacerbation.
Clinical trial registered at (NCT00201266).
PMCID: PMC3040389  PMID: 20732988
asthma; mucins; fucosylation; H antigen; blood groups
2.  Ex Vivo Sputum Analysis Reveals Impairment of Protease-dependent Mucus Degradation by Plasma Proteins in Acute Asthma 
Rationale: Airway mucus plugs, composed of mucin glycoproteins mixed with plasma proteins, are an important cause of airway obstruction in acute severe asthma, and they are poorly treated with current therapies.
Objectives: To investigate mechanisms of airway mucus clearance in health and in acute severe asthma.
Methods: We collected airway mucus from patients with asthma and nonasthmatic control subjects, using sputum induction or tracheal aspiration. We used rheological methods complemented by centrifugation-based mucin size profiling and immunoblotting to characterize the physical properties of the mucus gel, the size profiles of mucins, and the degradation products of albumin in airway mucus.
Measurements and Main Results: Repeated ex vivo measures of size and entanglement of mucin polymers in airway mucus from nonasthmatic control subjects showed that the mucus gel is normally degraded by proteases and that albumin inhibits this degradation. In airway mucus collected from patients with asthma at various time points during acute asthma exacerbation, protease-driven mucus degradation was inhibited at the height of exacerbation but was restored during recovery. In immunoblots of human serum albumin digested by neutrophil elastase and in immunoblots of airway mucus, we found that albumin was a substrate of neutrophil elastase and that products of albumin degradation were abundant in airway mucus during acute asthma exacerbation.
Conclusions: Rheological methods complemented by centrifugation-based mucin size profiling of airway mucins in health and acute asthma reveal that mucin degradation is inhibited in acute asthma, and that an excess of plasma proteins present in acute asthma inhibits the degradation of mucins in a protease-dependent manner. These findings identify a novel mechanism whereby plasma exudation may impair airway mucus clearance.
PMCID: PMC2724713  PMID: 19423716
airway mucus; rheology; neutrophil elastase; plasma; asthma exacerbation

Results 1-2 (2)