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1.  Role of Breast Regression Protein–39 in the Pathogenesis of Cigarette Smoke–Induced Inflammation and Emphysema 
The exaggerated expression of chitinase-like protein YKL-40, the human homologue of breast regression protein–39 (BRP-39), was reported in a number of diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, the in vivo roles of YKL-40 in normal physiology or in the pathogenesis of specific diseases such as COPD remain poorly understood. We hypothesized that BRP-39/YKL-40 plays an important role in the pathogenesis of cigarette smoke (CS)–induced emphysema. To test this hypothesis, 10-week-old wild-type and BRP-39 null mutant mice (BRP-39−/−) were exposed to room air (RA) and CS for up to 10 months. The expression of BRP-39 was significantly induced in macrophages, airway epithelial cells, and alveolar Type II cells in the lungs of CS-exposed mice compared with RA-exposed mice, at least in part via an IL-18 signaling–dependent pathway. The null mutation of BRP-39 significantly reduced CS-induced bronchoalveolar lavage and tissue inflammation. However, CS-induced epithelial cell apoptosis and alveolar destruction were further enhanced in the absence of BRP-39. Consistent with these findings in mice, the tissue expression of YKL-40 was significantly increased in the lungs of current smokers compared with the lungs of ex-smokers or nonsmokers. In addition, serum concentrations of YKL-40 were significantly higher in smokers with COPD than in nonsmokers or smokers without COPD. These studies demonstrate a novel regulatory role of BRP-39/YKL-40 in CS-induced inflammation and emphysematous destruction. These studies also underscore that maintaining physiologic concentrations of YKL-40 in the lung is therapeutically important in preventing excessive inflammatory responses or emphysematous alveolar destruction.
doi:10.1165/rcmb.2010-0081OC
PMCID: PMC3135840  PMID: 20656949
YKL-40/BRP-39; COPD; emphysema; cigarette smoke
2.  The Chitinase-Like Protein YKL-40 Modulates Cystic Fibrosis Lung Disease 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e24399.
The chitinase-like protein YKL-40 was found to be increased in patients with severe asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), two disease conditions featuring neutrophilic infiltrates. Based on these studies and a previous report indicating that neutrophils secrete YKL-40, we hypothesized that YKL-40 plays a key role in cystic fibrosis (CF) lung disease, a prototypic neutrophilic disease. The aim of this study was (i) to analyze YKL-40 levels in human and murine CF lung disease and (ii) to investigate whether YKL-40 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) modulate CF lung disease severity. YKL-40 protein levels were quantified in serum and sputum supernatants from CF patients and control individuals. Levels of the murine homologue BRP-39 were analyzed in airway fluids from CF-like βENaC-Tg mice. YKL-40SNPs were analyzed in CF patients. YKL-40 levels were increased in sputum supernatants and in serum from CF patients compared to healthy control individuals. Within CF patients, YKL-40 levels were higher in sputum than in serum. BRP-39 levels were increased in airways fluids from βENaC-Tg mice compared to wild-type littermates. In both CF patients and βENaC-Tg mice, YKL-40/BRP-39 airway levels correlated with the severity of pulmonary obstruction. Two YKL-40 SNPs (rs871799 and rs880633) were found to modulate age-adjusted lung function in CF patients. YKL-40/BRP-39 levelsare increased in human and murine CF airway fluids, correlate with pulmonary function and modulate CF lung disease severity genetically. These findings suggest YKL-40 as a potential biomarker in CF lung disease.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024399
PMCID: PMC3176766  PMID: 21949714
3.  Chitin Modulates Innate Immune Responses of Keratinocytes 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(2):e16594.
Background
Chitin, after cellulose the second most abundant polysaccharide in nature, is an essential component of exoskeletons of crabs, shrimps and insects and protects these organisms from harsh conditions in their environment. Unexpectedly, chitin has been found to activate innate immune cells and to elicit murine airway inflammation. The skin represents the outer barrier of the human host defense and is in frequent contact with chitin-bearing organisms, such as house-dust mites or flies. The effects of chitin on keratinocytes, however, are poorly understood.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We hypothesized that chitin stimulates keratinocytes and thereby modulates the innate immune response of the skin. Here we show that chitin is bioactive on primary and immortalized keratinocytes by triggering production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines. Chitin stimulation further induced the expression of the Toll-like receptor (TLR) TLR4 on keratinocytes at mRNA and protein level. Chitin-induced effects were mainly abrogated when TLR2 was blocked, suggesting that TLR2 senses chitin on keratinocytes.
Conclusions/Significance
We speculate that chitin-bearing organisms modulate the innate immune response towards pathogens by upregulating secretion of cytokines and chemokines and expression of MyD88-associated TLRs, two major components of innate immunity. The clinical relevance of this mechanism remains to be defined.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0016594
PMCID: PMC3044707  PMID: 21383982
4.  Expression, regulation and clinical significance of soluble and membrane CD14 receptors in pediatric inflammatory lung diseases 
Respiratory Research  2010;11(1):32.
Background
Inflammatory lung diseases are a major morbidity factor in children. Therefore, novel strategies for early detection of inflammatory lung diseases are of high interest. Bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) is recognized via Toll-like receptors and CD14. CD14 exists as a soluble (sCD14) and membrane-associated (mCD14) protein, present on the surface of leukocytes. Previous studies suggest sCD14 as potential marker for inflammatory diseases, but their potential role in pediatric lung diseases remained elusive. Therefore, we examined the expression, regulation and significance of sCD14 and mCD14 in pediatric lung diseases.
Methods
sCD14 levels were quantified in serum and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) of children with infective (pneumonia, cystic fibrosis, CF) and non-infective (asthma) inflammatory lung diseases and healthy control subjects by ELISA. Membrane CD14 expression levels on monocytes in peripheral blood and on alveolar macrophages in BALF were quantified by flow cytometry. In vitro studies were performed to investigate which factors regulate sCD14 release and mCD14 expression.
Results
sCD14 serum levels were specifically increased in serum of children with pneumonia compared to CF, asthma and control subjects. In vitro, CpG induced the release of sCD14 levels in a protease-independent manner, whereas LPS-mediated mCD14 shedding was prevented by serine protease inhibition.
Conclusions
This study demonstrates for the first time the expression, regulation and clinical significance of soluble and membrane CD14 receptors in pediatric inflammatory lung diseases and suggests sCD14 as potential marker for pneumonia in children.
doi:10.1186/1465-9921-11-32
PMCID: PMC2845564  PMID: 20302606
5.  Role of breast regression protein 39 (BRP-39)/chitinase 3-like-1 in Th2 and IL-13–induced tissue responses and apoptosis 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2009;206(5):1149-1166.
Mouse breast regression protein 39 (BRP-39; Chi3l1) and its human homologue YKL-40 are chitinase-like proteins that lack chitinase activity. Although YKL-40 is expressed in exaggerated quantities and correlates with disease activity in asthma and many other disorders, the biological properties of BRP-39/YKL-40 have only been rudimentarily defined. We describe the generation and characterization of BRP-39−/− mice, YKL-40 transgenic mice, and mice that lack BRP-39 and produce YKL-40 only in their pulmonary epithelium. Studies of these mice demonstrated that BRP-39−/− animals have markedly diminished antigen-induced Th2 responses and that epithelial YKL-40 rescues the Th2 responses in these animals. The ability of interleukin13 to induce tissue inflammation and fibrosis was also markedly diminished in the absence of BRP-39. Mechanistic investigations demonstrated that BRP-39 and YKL-40 play an essential role in antigen sensitization and immunoglobulin E induction, stimulate dendritic cell accumulation and activation, and induce alternative macrophage activation. These proteins also inhibit inflammatory cell apoptosis/cell death while inhibiting Fas expression, activating protein kinase B/AKT, and inducing Faim 3. These studies establish novel regulatory roles for BRP-39/YKL-40 in the initiation and effector phases of Th2 inflammation and remodeling and suggest that these proteins are therapeutic targets in Th2- and macrophage-mediated disorders.
doi:10.1084/jem.20081271
PMCID: PMC2715037  PMID: 19414556
6.  Cellular fine structures and histochemical reactions in the tissue of a cypress twig preserved in Baltic amber 
A twig of a cypress plant preserved for ca. 45Myr in Baltic amber was analysed by light and electron microscopy. Cross-sections of the whole plant showed an almost intact tissue of the entire stem and leaves, revealing, to our knowledge, the oldest and most highly preserved tissue from an amber inclusion reported so far. The preparations are based on a new technique of internal imbedding, whereby the hollow spaces within the inclusion are filled with synthetic resin which stabilizes the cellular structures during the sectioning procedure. Cytological stains applied to the sections reacted with cell walls and nuclei. A strong green auto-fluorescence of the cuticle and the resin canals in the leaves was observed. Transmission electron micrographs revealed highly preserved fine structures of cell walls, membranes and organelles. The results were compared with taxonomically related recent Glyptostrobus and Juniperus plants.
doi:10.1098/rspb.2004.2939
PMCID: PMC1634957  PMID: 15695201
Baltic amber; cypress; microscopy; cell structures; organelles; histochemistry

Results 1-6 (6)