Background: The 72 kDa matrix metalloproteinase 2 (MMP-2) and the 92 kDa matrix metalloproteinase 9 (MMP-9) are type IV collagenases implicated in various aspects of inflammation including accumulation of inflammatory cells, tissue injury, and development of remodelling. The role of these enzymes in the pathogenesis of asthma exacerbations is unknown.
Methods: Circulating levels of MMP-2 and MMP-9 proteins and the expression of their inhibitor, tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase 1 (TIMP-1), were measured in 21 patients experiencing an asthma exacerbation and 21 age matched patients with stable asthma. Circulating gelatinolytic activity was compared during the asthma exacerbation and during subsequent convalescence by gelatin zymography in the same individuals. In addition, MMP-9 specific activity was quantified with a colorimetric assay which uses an artificial proenzyme containing a specific domain recognised by MMP-9 in the same paired samples.
Results: A significant increase in the circulating level of MMP-9 was seen in patients with an asthma exacerbation compared with patients with stable asthma (202.9 (22.0) v 107.7 (9.9) ng/ml, p=0.0003). There were no significant differences in the circulating levels of MMP-2 or TIMP-1. Gelatin zymography identified two major circulating gelatinolytic activities corresponding to MMP-2 and MMP-9, and showed that asthma exacerbations are characterised by markedly increased MMP-9 activity with no significant change in MMP-2 activity compared with the activities during convalescence in the same individuals. Direct measurement showed that MMP-9 specific activity is significantly increased during asthma exacerbations compared with subsequent convalescence (269.6 (31.7) v 170.4 (12.6) ng/ml, p=0.0099).
Conclusions: Asthma exacerbations are characterised by increased circulating MMP-9 activity. This increased activity may be related to exaggerated airway inflammation and airway remodelling.
- matrix metalloproteinases
- asthma exacerbation
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