An imbalance between proteolytic enzymes and their inhibitors is thought to be involved in the pathogenesis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Matrix metalloproteinase-1, also known as interstitial collagenase, has been implicated as a potentially important proteinase in the genesis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and, more specifically, emphysema.
We performed quantitative immunohistochemical assessment of matrix metalloproteinase-1 expression in the resected lung of 20 smokers/ex-smokers who had varying severity of airflow obstruction and emphysema and compared this with the lungs of 5 nonsmokers. Emphysema was measured using a morphometric measure of the lungs’ surface area/volume ratio and with qualitative and quantitative computed tomography (CT) measures of emphysema.
There were significantly more matrix metalloproteinase-1-expressing alveolar macrophages and type II pneumocytes as well as a greater percentage of small airways that stained positively for matrix metalloproteinase-1 in the lungs of smokers than in those of nonsmokers (p < 0.0001, p < 0.0001, and p = 0.0003, respectively). The extent of staining of type II pneumocytes and airways for matrix metalloproteinase-1 was significantly related to the extent of smoking (p = 0.012 and p = 0.013, respectively). In addition, the extent of matrix metalloproteinase-1 staining of alveolar macrophages was related to the lung surface area/volume ratio and to qualitative estimates of emphysema on CT.
These findings suggest that cigarette smoking increases expression of matrix metalloproteinase-1 in alveolar macrophages as well as in alveolar and small airway epithelial cells. Smokers who develop emphysema have increased alveolar macrophage expression of matrix metalloproteinase-1.
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