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1.  Accelerated extracellular matrix turnover during exacerbations of COPD 
Respiratory Research  2015;16(1):69.
Exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) contribute significantly to disease progression. However, the effect on tissue structure and turnover is not well described. There is an urgent clinical need for biomarkers of disease activity associated with disease progression. Extracellular matrix (ECM) turnover reflects activity in tissues and consequently assessment of ECM turnover may serve as biomarkers of disease activity. We hypothesized that the turnover of lung ECM proteins were altered during exacerbations of COPD.
69 patients with COPD hospitalised for an exacerbation were recruited at admission and returned for a 4 weeks follow-up. Competitive ELISAs measuring circulating protein fragments in serum or plasma assessed the formation and degradation of collagen types III (Pro-C3 and C3M, respectively), IV (P4NP 7S and C4M, respectively), and VI (Pro-C6 and C6M, respectively), and degradation of elastin (ELM7 and EL-NE) and versican (VCANM).
Circulating levels of C3M, C4M, C6M, ELM7, and EL-NE were elevated during an exacerbation of COPD as compared to follow-up (all P <0.0001), while VCANM levels were decreased (P <0.0001). Pro-C6 levels were decreased and P4NP 7S levels were elevated during exacerbation (P <0.0001). Pro-C3 levels were unchanged. At time of exacerbation, degradation/formation ratios were increased for collagen types III and VI and decreased for collagen type IV.
Exacerbations of COPD resulted in elevated levels of circulating fragments of structural proteins, which may serve as markers of disease activity. This suggests that patients with COPD have accelerated ECM turnover during exacerbations which may be related to disease progression.
PMCID: PMC4491243  PMID: 26062683
COPD; Exacerbation; Extracellular matrix; Tissue turnover; Collagens; Elastin; Versican; Disease activity; Biomarkers
2.  Wild Type Mesenchymal Cells Contribute to the Lung Pathology of Lymphangioleiomyomatosis 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(5):e0126025.
Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) is a rare disease leading to lungs cysts and progressive respiratory failure. Cells of unknown origin accumulate in the lungs forming nodules and eventually resulting in lung cysts. These LAM cells are described as clonal with bi-allelic mutations in TSC-2 resulting in constitutive mTOR activation. However LAM nodules are heterogeneous structures containing cells of different phenotypes; we investigated whether recruited wild type cells were also present alongside mutation bearing cells. Cells were isolated from LAM lung tissue, cultured and characterised using microscopy, immunocytochemistry and western blotting. Fibroblast-like cells were identified in lung tissue using immunohistochemical markers. Fibroblast chemotaxis toward LAM cells was examined using migration assays and 3D cell culture. Fibroblast-like cells were obtained from LAM lungs: these cells had fibroblast-like morphology, actin stress fibres, full length tuberin protein and suppressible ribosomal protein S6 activity suggesting functional TSC-1/2 protein. Fibroblast Activation Protein, Fibroblast Specific Protein/S100A4 and Fibroblast Surface Protein all stained subsets of cells within LAM nodules from multiple donors. In a mouse model of LAM, tuberin positive host derived cells were also present within lung nodules of xenografted TSC-2 null cells. In vitro, LAM 621-101 cells and fibroblasts formed spontaneous aggregates over three days in 3D co-cultures. Fibroblast chemotaxis was enhanced two fold by LAM 621-101 conditioned medium (p=0.05), which was partially dependent upon LAM cell derived CXCL12. Further, LAM cell conditioned medium also halved fibroblast apoptosis under serum free conditions (p=0.03). Our findings suggest that LAM nodules contain a significant population of fibroblast-like cells. Analogous to cancer associated fibroblasts, these cells may provide a permissive environment for LAM cell growth and contribute to the lung pathology of LAM lung disease.
PMCID: PMC4433241  PMID: 25978616
3.  Cardiovascular and inflammatory effects of simvastatin therapy in patients with COPD: a randomized controlled trial 
There is excess cardiovascular mortality in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Aortic stiffness, an independent predictor of cardiovascular risk, and systemic and airway inflammation are increased in patients with the disease. Statins modulate aortic stiffness and have anti-inflammatory properties. A proof-of-principle, double-blind, randomized trial determined if 6 weeks of simvastatin 20 mg once daily reduced aortic stiffness and systemic and airway inflammation in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Stable patients (n=70) were randomized to simvastatin (active) or placebo. Pre-treatment and post-treatment aortic stiffness, blood pressure, spirometry, and circulating and airway inflammatory mediators and lipids were measured. A predefined subgroup analysis was performed where baseline aortic pulse wave velocity (PWV) was >10 m/sec.
Total cholesterol dropped in the active group. There was no significant change in aortic PWV between the active group and the placebo group (−0.7 m/sec, P=0.24). In those with aortic stiffness >10 m/sec (n=22), aortic PWV improved in the active group compared with the placebo group (−2.8 m/sec, P=0.03). Neither systemic nor airway inflammatory markers changed.
There was a nonsignificant improvement in aortic PWV in those taking simvastatin 20 mg compared with placebo, but in those with higher baseline aortic stiffness (a higher risk group) a significant and clinically relevant reduction in PWV was shown.
PMCID: PMC4321645  PMID: 25673981
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; arterial stiffness; statins
4.  Air travel in women with lymphangioleiomyomatosis 
Thorax  2006;62(2):176-180.
Background and objective
The safety of air travel in patients with pneumothorax‐prone pulmonary diseases, such as lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM), has not been studied to any great extent. A questionnaire‐based evaluation of air travel in patients with LAM was conducted to determine experiences aboard commercial aircraft.
A survey was sent to women listed in the US LAM Foundation registry (n = 389) and the UK LAM Action registry (n = 59) to assess air travel, including problems occurring during flight. Women reporting a pneumothorax in flight were followed up to ascertain further details about the incident.
327 (73%) women completed the survey. 308 women answered the travel section, of whom 276 (90%) had “ever” travelled by aeroplane for a total of 454 flights. 95 (35%) women had been advised by their doctor to avoid air travel. Adverse events reported included shortness of breath (14%), pneumothorax (2%, 8/10 confirmed by chest radiograph), nausea or dizziness (8%), chest pain (12%), unusual fatigue (11%), oxygen desaturation (8%), headache (9%), blue hands (2%), haemoptysis (0.4%) and anxiety (22%). 5 of 10 patients with pneumothorax had symptoms that began before the flight: 2 occurred during cruising altitude, 2 soon after landing and 1 not known. The main symptoms were severe chest pain and shortness of breath.
Discussion and conclusion
Adverse effects occurred during air travel in patients with LAM, particularly dyspnoea and chest pain. Hypoxaemia and pneumothorax were reported. The decision to travel should be individualised; patients with unexplained shortness of breath or chest pain before scheduled flights should not board. Patients with borderline oxygen saturations on the ground should be evaluated for supplemental oxygen therapy during flight. Although many women had been advised not to travel by air, most travelled without the occurrence of serious adverse effects.
PMCID: PMC2111263  PMID: 17040934
5.  Natural history of angiomyolipoma in lymphangioleiomyomatosis: implications for screening and surveillance 
LAM is a rare disease of women categorised by lung cysts and lymphatic abnormalities. The disease occurs sporadically or associated with Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC-LAM). Angiomyolipoma, a benign tumour, prone to haemorrhage, occurs mostly in the kidneys in many of these patients. Treatment guidelines exist for angiomyolipoma in patients with TSC but the natural history of angiomyolipoma in sporadic LAM has not been studied.
To document the natural history of angiomyolipoma in a national cohort of patients with sporadic LAM to inform tumour screening and surveillance protocols.
Demographic data, clinical features, lung function and tumour size were obtained from clinical records of patients attending the National Centre for LAM in Nottingham, UK.
122 patients with definite or probable LAM by European Respiratory Society criteria were identified. One hundred and seven had sporadic LAM, of which 53 (50%) had at least one angiomyolipoma. In patients with sporadic LAM presentation of angiomyolipoma preceded or followed onset of lung symptoms by up to 11 and 38 years respectively. Mean tumour size was 28 mm (range 5-140 mm) at presentation and growth was 1.8 mm/yr (95% C.I. 0.42-3.82) thereafter. Eleven patients with sporadic LAM had had a nephrectomy due to angiomyolipoma bleeding. The need for intervention did not differ between those with TSC-LAM and sporadic LAM.
Patients with LAM have a high prevalence of symptomatic angiomyolipoma which can present at any time. Angiomyolipoma in sporadic-LAM have a similar risk of bleeding to those with TSC. All patients should be screened for angiomyolipoma at diagnosis of lung disease by MRI scanning and the tumours require continuous monitoring.
PMCID: PMC4203902  PMID: 25277108
Lymphangioleiomyomatosis; Tuberous sclerosis; Kidney disease; Natural history
6.  The Role of Inflammation Resolution Speed in Airway Smooth Muscle Mass Accumulation in Asthma: Insight from a Theoretical Model 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e90162.
Despite a large amount of in vitro data, the dynamics of airway smooth muscle (ASM) mass increase in the airways of patients with asthma is not well understood. Here, we present a novel mathematical model that describes qualitatively the growth dynamics of ASM cells over short and long terms in the normal and inflammatory environments typically observed in asthma. The degree of ASM accumulation can be explained by an increase in the rate at which ASM cells switch between non-proliferative and proliferative states, driven by episodic inflammatory events. Our model explores the idea that remodelling due to ASM hyperplasia increases with the frequency and magnitude of these inflammatory events, relative to certain sensitivity thresholds. It highlights the importance of inflammation resolution speed by showing that when resolution is slow, even a series of small exacerbation events can result in significant remodelling, which persists after the inflammatory episodes. In addition, we demonstrate how the uncertainty in long-term outcome may be quantified and used to design an optimal low-risk individual anti-proliferative treatment strategy. The model shows that the rate of clearance of ASM proliferation and recruitment factors after an acute inflammatory event is a potentially important, and hitherto unrecognised, target for anti-remodelling therapy in asthma. It also suggests new ways of quantifying inflammation severity that could improve prediction of the extent of ASM accumulation. This ASM growth model should prove useful for designing new experiments or as a building block of more detailed multi-cellular tissue-level models.
PMCID: PMC3954558  PMID: 24632688
7.  Extra-Cellular Matrix Proteins Induce Matrix Metalloproteinase-1 (MMP-1) Activity and Increase Airway Smooth Muscle Contraction in Asthma 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e90565.
Airway remodelling describes the histopathological changes leading to fixed airway obstruction in patients with asthma and includes extra-cellular matrix (ECM) deposition. Matrix metalloproteinase-1 (MMP-1) is present in remodelled airways but its relationship with ECM proteins and the resulting functional consequences are unknown. We used airway smooth muscle cells (ASM) and bronchial biopsies from control donors and patients with asthma to examine the regulation of MMP-1 by ECM in ASM cells and the effect of MMP-1 on ASM contraction. Collagen-I and tenascin-C induced MMP-1 protein expression, which for tenascin-C, was greater in asthma derived ASM cells. Tenascin-C induced MMP-1 expression was dependent on ERK1/2, JNK and p38 MAPK activation and attenuated by function blocking antibodies against the β1 and β3 integrin subunits. Tenascin-C and MMP-1 were not expressed in normal airways but co-localised in the ASM bundles and reticular basement membrane of patients with asthma. Further, ECM from asthma derived ASM cells stimulated MMP-1 expression to a greater degree than ECM from normal ASM. Bradykinin induced contraction of ASM cells seeded in 3D collagen gels was reduced by the MMP inhibitor ilomastat and by siRNA knockdown of MMP-1. In summary, the induction of MMP-1 in ASM cells by tenascin-C occurs in part via integrin mediated MAPK signalling. MMP-1 and tenascin-C are co-localised in the smooth muscle bundles of patients with asthma where this interaction may contribute to enhanced airway contraction. Our findings suggest that ECM changes in airway remodelling via MMP-1 could contribute to an environment promoting greater airway narrowing in response to broncho-constrictor stimuli and worsening asthma symptoms.
PMCID: PMC3938782  PMID: 24587395
8.  Clinical utility of diagnostic guidelines and putative biomarkers in lymphangioleiomyomatosis 
Respiratory Research  2012;13(1):34.
Lymphangioleiomyomatosis is a rare disease occurring almost exclusively in women. Diagnosis often requires surgical biopsy and the clinical course varies between patients with no predictors of progression. We evaluated recent diagnostic guidelines, clinical features and serum biomarkers as diagnostic and prognostic tools.
Serum vascular endothelial growth factor-D (VEGF-D), angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE), matrix metalloproteinases (MMP) -2 and -9, clinical phenotype, thoracic and abdominal computerised tomography, lung function and quality of life were examined in a cohort of 58 patients. 32 healthy female controls had serum biomarkers measured.
Serum VEGF-D, ACE and total MMP-2 levels were elevated in patients. VEGF-D was the strongest discriminator between patients and controls (median = 1174 vs. 332 pg/ml p < 0.0001 with an area under the receiver operating characteristic curve of 0.967, 95% CI 0.93-1.01). Application of European Respiratory Society criteria allowed a definite diagnosis without biopsy in 69%. Adding VEGF-D measurement to ERS criteria further reduced the need for biopsy by 10%. VEGF-D was associated with lymphatic involvement (p = 0.017) but not the presence of angiomyolipomas.
Combining ERS criteria and serum VEGF-D reduces the need for lung biopsy in LAM. VEGF-D was associated with lymphatic disease but not lung function.
PMCID: PMC3431996  PMID: 22513045
VEGF-D; Matrix metalloproteinase; Angiotensin converting enzyme; ERS LAM guidelines
9.  Association of MMP - 12 polymorphisms with severe and very severe COPD: A case control study of MMPs - 1, 9 and 12 in a European population 
BMC Medical Genetics  2010;11:7.
Genetic factors play a role in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) but are poorly understood. A number of candidate genes have been proposed on the basis of the pathogenesis of COPD. These include the matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) genes which play a role in tissue remodelling and fit in with the protease - antiprotease imbalance theory for the cause of COPD. Previous genetic studies of MMPs in COPD have had inadequate coverage of the genes, and have reported conflicting associations of both single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and SNP haplotypes, plausibly due to under-powered studies.
To address these issues we genotyped 26 SNPs, providing comprehensive coverage of reported SNP variation, in MMPs- 1, 9 and 12 from 977 COPD patients and 876 non-diseased smokers of European descent and evaluated their association with disease singly and in haplotype combinations. We used logistic regression to adjust for age, gender, centre and smoking history.
Haplotypes of two SNPs in MMP-12 (rs652438 and rs2276109), showed an association with severe/very severe disease, corresponding to GOLD Stages III and IV.
Those with the common A-A haplotype for these two SNPs were at greater risk of developing severe/very severe disease (p = 0.0039) while possession of the minor G variants at either SNP locus had a protective effect (adjusted odds ratio of 0.76; 95% CI 0.61 - 0.94). The A-A haplotype was also associated with significantly lower predicted FEV1 (42.62% versus 44.79%; p = 0.0129). This implicates haplotypes of MMP-12 as modifiers of disease severity.
PMCID: PMC2820470  PMID: 20078883
10.  Matrix metalloproteinase expression and activity in human airway smooth muscle cells 
British Journal of Pharmacology  2004;142(8):1318-1324.
Airway remodelling is a feature of chronic asthma comprising smooth muscle hypertrophy and deposition of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) breakdown ECM, are involved in tissue remodelling and have been implicated in airway remodelling. Although mesenchymal cells are an important source of MMPs, little data are available on airway smooth muscle (ASM) derived MMPs. We therefore investigated MMP and tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase (TIMP) production and activity in human ASM cells.MMPs and TIMPs were examined using quantitative real-time RT–PCR, Western blotting, zymography and a quench fluorescence (QF) assay of total MMP activity.The most abundant MMPs were pro-MMP-2, pro- MMP-3, active MMP-3 and MT1-MMP. TIMP-1 and TIMP-2 expression was low in cell lysates but high in conditioned medium. High TIMP secretion was confirmed by the ability of ASM-conditioned medium to inhibit recombinant MMP-2 in a QF assay. Thrombin increased MMP activity by activation of pro-MMP-2 independent of the conventional smooth muscle thrombin receptors PAR 1 and 4.In conclusion, ASM cells express pro-MMP-2, pro and active MMP-3, MMP-9 and MT1-MMP. Unstimulated cells secrete excess TIMP 1 and 2, preventing proteolytic activity. MMP-2 can be activated by thrombin which may contribute to airway remodelling.
PMCID: PMC1575191  PMID: 15265805
Matrix metalloproteinases; airway smooth muscle cells; tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases; thrombin; airway remodelling
11.  An assay to evaluate the long term effects of inflammatory mediators on airway smooth muscle: evidence that TNFα up-regulates 5-HT2A mediated contraction 
British Journal of Pharmacology  2002;137(7):943-944.
PMCID: PMC1573595  PMID: 12429565
Airway remodelling; asthma; organ culture; airway smooth muscle; tumour necrosis factor alpha

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