The constituents of the secretory immunoglobulin A system (dimeric IgA, total secretory component and free secretory component) were measured in sputum sol phase, tracheal aspirates, and bronchoalveolar lavage fluids from 15 patients undergoing fibreoptic bronchoscopy. All of the proteins showed a progressive decrease in concentration from sputum to the bronchoalveolar lavage fluids (2p less than 0.001). Standardisation of samples by means of protein concentration ratios showed that all secretions were generally similar in respect of their secretory IgA profiles, although major differences remained in some individual patients. The between patient variability of the results was generally reduced by the use of protein concentration ratios, allowing closer comparison between subjects. When the secretion albumin concentration was used as a standard, however, it increased the variability of the sputum sol phase IgA components (2p less than 0.01), whereas it decreased the variability of the IgA components in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (2p less than 0.05). The role of albumin as a standard protein for assessing the secretory IgA system in lung secretions remains uncertain.
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