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Original article
A role for whey acidic protein four-disulfide-core 12 (WFDC12) in the regulation of the inflammatory response in the lung
  1. Arlene M A Glasgow1,
  2. Donna M Small1,
  3. Aaron Scott1,
  4. Denise T McLean1,
  5. Nicolas Camper1,
  6. Umar Hamid1,
  7. Shauna Hegarty2,
  8. Dhruv Parekh3,
  9. Cecilia O'Kane1,
  10. Fionnuala T Lundy1,
  11. Paul McNally4,
  12. J Stuart Elborn1,
  13. Danny F McAuley1,
  14. Sinéad Weldon1,
  15. Clifford C Taggart1
  1. 1Centre for Infection and Immunity, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, UK
  2. 2Department of Pathology, Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, UK
  3. 3College of Medical and Dental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  4. 4Our Lady's Children's Hospital Crumlin, Dublin, Ireland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sinéad Weldon, Centre for Infection and Immunity, Health Sciences Building, Queen's University Belfast, 97 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 7AE, UK; s.weldon{at}


Introduction Secretory leucocyte protease inhibitor and elafin are members of the whey acidic protein (WAP), or WAP four disulfide-core (WFDC), family of proteins and have multiple contributions to innate defence including inhibition of neutrophil serine proteases and inhibition of the inflammatory response to lipopolysaccharide (LPS). This study aimed to explore potential activities of WFDC12, a previously uncharacterised WFDC protein expressed in the lung.

Methods Recombinant expression and purification of WFDC12 were optimised in Escherichia coli. Antiprotease, antibacterial and immunomodulatory activities of recombinant WFDC12 were evaluated and levels of endogenous WFDC12 protein were characterised by immunostaining and ELISA.

Results Recombinant WFDC12 inhibited cathepsin G, but not elastase or proteinase-3 activity. Monocytic cells pretreated with recombinant WFDC12 before LPS stimulation produced significantly lower levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin-8 and monocyte chemotactic protein-1 compared with cells stimulated with LPS alone. Recombinant WFDC12 became conjugated to fibronectin in a transglutaminase-mediated reaction and retained antiprotease activity. In vivo WFDC12 expression was confirmed by immunostaining of human lung tissue sections. WFDC12 levels in human bronchoalveolar lavage fluid from healthy and lung-injured patients were quantitatively compared, showing WFDC12 to be elevated in both patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome and healthy subjects treated with LPS, relative to healthy controls.

Conclusions Together, these results suggest a role for this lesser known WFDC protein in the regulation of lung inflammation.

  • ARDS
  • Innate Immunity
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